Art Baker was widely respected and revered as one of the premier college football coaches, particularly at Furman University. Beginning his tenure as head coach in December 1972 and taking over a struggling 2-9 team with no wins to their credit, Baker went on to record an extraordinary 7-4 record his inaugural season – garnering national attention and setting up future successes at Furman. He went on to coach five times at Furman – including as head coach during two National Championship runs (1974 and 1975).
Baker was an undeniably powerful figure. His leadership and strategic insights fundamentally altered Paladin football, setting a path for decades of success. From 1973-1977 he had an admirable 27-24-4 coaching record; but more than just numbers can measure his impact: His vision transformed the team identity and culture, inspiring an unbroken tradition of excellence that endures to this day.
A Legacy of Leaders
Art Baker left an indelible legacy of leaders behind in Furman football. One of his primary contributions was recognizing and nurturing coaching talent; many assistants hired during his tenure went on to become key figures within Paladin history; these included Dick Sheridan, Jimmy Satterfield, and Bobby Johnson – coaches that not only continued but built upon what Baker started; leading Furman to numerous Southern Conference championships and national honors.
Under Sheridan’s direction, the Paladins clinched six conference championships and finished second at the 1985 NCAA FCS nationals. Satterfield then continued this success by winning three more conference titles and the national title in 1988 before Johnson added to it by earning two league championships and finishing as national runner-up in 2001. His influence can still be felt today through many of these coaches who worked under Baker’s successors who further cemented his legacy and vision in college football.
More Than a Coach
Art Baker made an indelible mark on Furman football. His influence can be seen through his role in creating the iconic Diamond F logo that has come to symbolize Paladin athletics – this shows both his foresight and creativity in creating this symbol that has come to define Paladin athletics.
Prior to embarking on his remarkable journey at Furman, Baker had already earned recognition as an experienced coach and strategist. He served as an assistant coach at Texas Tech and Clemson before serving as head coach at The Citadel and East Carolina. A former standout footballer at Presbyterian College himself, Baker used his personal athletic experience and strategic acumen to forge an illustrious coaching career at both high school and collegiate levels.
Honoring a Legend
Art Baker was recently honored for his contributions to sports with induction into the South Carolina Athletic Hall of Fame. This honor recognizes his influential status in college football coaching, both for his coaching successes as a head coach as well as mentoring players. His coaching philosophy of integrity, discipline, and excellence left an indelible imprint on this sport.
Art Baker was more than just a coach; he was also a catalyst for change, mentor, and icon within college football culture. His influence resonated with players and coaches alike far beyond Furman University; as the football community mourns his passing, they celebrate both his life and legacy – his story serves as testament to leadership’s transformative potential and to how one individual can have lasting effects on an organization and its participants.
Art Baker left behind more than just records and accolades over his long career; it lives on in the principles he instilled into his players, mentored coaches he mentored and programs he transformed. His life serves as an enduring testament to how dedicated coaches can make an enormous difference both on sports teams and beyond.