Legendary coach Scarpa retires
Winning DI tennis coach in history started at Furman in 1967
GREENVILLE, S.C. -- Furman University’s Paul Scarpa, the winningest Division I tennis coach in America and longest tenured head coach in any sport in Furman and Southern Conference history, has announced his retirement following 45 seasons at the helm of the school’s men’s tennis program.
Scarpa, who took over the school’s net program in 1967 and directed it to 853 victories and 17 Southern Conference championships, and who has been enshrined into three halls of fame, will remain with university as a special assistant to the president and Furman ambassador at large.
“I think I speak for everybody who loves Furman in saying we wished this day would never come, when Paul Scarpa would hand over the reins of his tennis program, which he has so brilliantly built and directed, with such tremendous class and deportment, to an unprecedented level of sustained excellence over five decades,” said athletics director Gary Clark. “That moment, however, has arrived, and now we pay tribute to the man who has dedicated virtually all of his professional life to the university and to the development of hundreds of student-athletes and thousands of tennis players.”
"From the first day I arrived at Furman, Paul Scarpa has been an invaluable friend, advisor, and mentor,” said Furman president Rod Smolla. “He has helped me understand the heart and soul of this great University. And indeed, for decades he has been a major part of that heart and soul. I am delighted that he has agreed to stay on as a special advisor to the President, channeling his boundless energy, his exuberance for life, and his leadership into a new role as an ambassador-at-large for the University he so dearly loves.”
“Choosing to leave my position as tennis coach after 45 years at Furman was a tough and somewhat sad decision, but one I needed to make in order to spend more time with my wife and extended family,” Scarpa said. “I am so proud of what our program has been able to accomplish with the resources we have had. We have been able to establish a nationally recognized program through our recruitment of quality individuals.
“My dedication to Furman over the last 45 years has come from my commitment to those who have expressed confidence in me and their desire for a special tennis program: President Blackwell, Athletics Director Lyles Alley, Dr. Johns, Dr. Shi, and now President Smolla and our Board of Trustees, which over the years has included many Furman tennis alumni, including Dave Ellison, Eddie Good, and Dudley Reynolds,” continued Scarpa. “I also want to thank my players for all they have meant in showcasing our program and making it so special for our alums.”
On March 6, 2009, Scarpa etched his name in the record book when he became the sport’s winningest coach in NCAA Division I history, earning his 820th victory in Furman’s 6-1 win against Yale. He was inducted into the South Carolina Athletic Hall of Fame in 2010 after being enshrined into the USTA Southern Tennis Hall of Fame in 2006. Scarpa was inducted into the Furman Athletic Hall of Fame in 1994, the only active coach to be accorded the honor.
While Scarpa’s influence has left its mark at Furman and in South Carolina, it has also been felt at the national level. In 1993, the NCAA began utilizing a new dual match scoring system -- developed by Scarpa -- in all men’s and women’s dual match and championship play. Known as the Scarpa System, the “3-6” format specifies that all matches begin with doubles play featuring eight-game pro sets and that all three doubles teams play for one team doubles point. The system proved to bring more of a team aspect to what was once an individual sport. It also shortened the time frame of a typical dual match, thus increasing overall intensity and fan interest -- two elements that were hallmarks of Scarpa’s Furman program. Scarpa has also enjoyed the role of inventor, patenting the tape (Tenex) used to mark clay courts throughout the world.
In 1969, just two years after taking over the Furman program, Scarpa led his team to the first of 17 Southern Conference Championships during his reign. Overall, Scarpa’s Furman teams posted a 2877-42-1 (.867) overall conference record and recorded 43 consecutive winning seasons in the league. Under Scarpa, Furman racked up 17 Southern Conference Championships and tacked on its 14th league tournament title in 2009. During one stretch in the early 1990’s, Furman won 25 consecutive Southern Conference matches. Undaunted by non-conference foes, Scarpa teams posted winning records in non-league matches in 38 of his 45 seasons at Furman despite competing against some of the top teams in the country. Scarpa was named Southern Conference Coach of the Year nine times, most recently in 2009.
Scarpa was well known for his talent in player development. In 2002, Furman’s doubles team of James Cameron and John Chesworth advanced to the quarterfinals of the NCAA Doubles Championships, thus qualifying the tandem for All-America status. Chesworth, who began as a No. 5 singles player as a freshman, developed under Scarpa’s tutelage into an outstanding singles player and participated in the 2002 NCAA Singles Championship. Sam Schroerlucke (`98) advanced to the NCAA tournament as as senior and was named Southern Conference Player of the Year once and tournament Most Valuable Player twice. In 2003 Scarpa again produced the league Player of the Year in Cameron, who was also an Academic All-American.
Scarpa also had a habit of taking good tennis players and making them great. Most recently, Any Juc (‘09) was ranked as high as No. 45 in the country among singles players. Ben Pauluhn (‘06) who wasn’t even in the lineup as a freshman, advanced to the top spot in the lineup. Jeff Maddox (‘76) rose from a No. 6 singles player to the conference champion at No. 1. Langdon Brockinton (‘80), never lost a singles or doubles match in four years of action in the Southern Conference Tournament. Don Barton (‘82) went from No. 7 singles as a freshman to an All-American as a junior, advancing to the round of 16 in the NCAA Championships. And, the most heralded player in Furman tennis history, Ned Caswell (‘87), a former member of the United States Junior Davis Cup Team and touring professional, advanced from the bottom of Furman’s singles lineup to the forefront of collegiate tennis. Caswell, a two-time All-American, has been ranked as high as No. 1 in the world in the over-35 singles and doubles divisions and is a top 150 ATP Tour player.
In addition, two of Scarpa’s student-athletes -- Steve Price (‘86) and Troy Goers (‘87) -- garnered Academic All-America honors following successful careers. Three other players -- Pauluhn, Sam Schroelucke and Bo Ladyman -- have earned the Southern Conference Sportsmanship Award.
A native of Charleston, S.C., and 1962 graduate of Florida State, Scarpa was a former top singles and doubles player for the Seminoles, winning the NCAA Eastern Intercollegiates. He reached the singles quarterfinals of the National 35s Clay Court Championships in 1975, and also made the doubles finals of the National Teaching Professional Championships that same year, an achievement that helped him garner South Carolina Professional-of-the-Year accolades. Scarpa also holds the distinction of being the first player to win the men’s state championship as both an amateur and later as a professional when it was opened to pros for the first time.