Feb. 25, 2005
Florida State tennis players from all generations have left great legacies and have continued to achieve much success on and off the courts. One of the most influential and successful players to graduate from Florida State is Furman head coach Paul Scarpa. Scarpa graduated from Florida State in 1962 and accepted his first coaching job at FSU in 1964. He led the Seminoles to an impressive 12-10 record that year, but more importantly, began one of the most influential careers in college tennis. Although 1964 was his only year coaching Florida State, Scarpa has stayed closely affiliated with the university. Paul Scarpa returns to Tallahassee this Sunday Feb. 27 as his Furman Paladins face off against Florida State.
Although he has made the venture back to Florida State University many times, most recently to appear as the keynote speaker for the First Serve Banquet held this past January, Scarpa enjoys coming back to Tallahassee, and the community surrounding FSU. The Furman coach has nothing but positive things to say about the university.
“I’m always energized when I come back to Tallahassee,” said the Furman head coach. “I have a lot of great memories. It’s a great school and I enjoy being a part of the whole environment there.”
Scarpa looked back on those memories and picked out a few in particular that he enjoyed more than others, memories like coaching top players as well as making a mark of his own in the singles ranks. One memory stood out though, and that was of his former head coach when he was playing at FSU.
“We had a fellow by the name of Eddie Covens. He was head of intramurals, but he was the designated tennis coach. He knew how to handle things really well. He always had tremendous support for all the players.”
It may have been this role model that Scarpa drew inspiration from, which helped him become the winningest active head coach in NCAA Division 1 men’s tennis. In 41 years of coaching, he has recorded 746 wins, which easily makes him the dean of active coaches in Division 1. Scarpa’s other achievements include 14 Southern Conference titles and an induction into the South Carolina Tennis Hall of Fame. He has developed talent into the form of 121 All-Southern Conference selections, 70 singles conference champions, and 29 conference doubles champions. In addition to tennis, Scarpa also served as the soccer coach at Furman for 14 years, proving that leadership qualities exist in Scarpa regardless of the circumstances.
Coach Scarpa looks forward to facing his former team this Sunday. Many might think it difficult to come back to their former school as an opponent. Scarpa thinks differently, as he has faced the Seminoles over 25 times in his career since leaving FSU, and doesn’t seem to mind walking on to his former home court as the visitor.
“People always think that you have mixed emotions,” said Scarpa. “I’d like to come back and actually win the match. I would never come back to win it out of animosity or because of any negatives. It’s just sort of nice to go back and beat your alma mater.”
In staying closely tuned to Florida State, Scarpa has enjoyed seeing the program go in the direction it is headed. He commented on the impact of Dwayne Hultquist and what he has been able to do with the program.
“I think he’s done a real good job. He appears to have a good eye for developmental players. Dwayne has picked up on a number of kids who have proven that they can play. The players (at FSU) improve. A lot of people recruit kids, and they don’t get any better. In his case, and I give him credit, those kids have really done very well.”
Anyone who has seen a college tennis match knows how it is scored. The match begins with three doubles matches, all consisting of one eight game pro-set. The winner of two of three doubles matches earns a single team point. Following the doubles are the six singles matches, which count for one overall point each. This format was actually developed by Scarpa. Scarpa’s style of dual match play aims to shorten match length as well as maximize fan interest in the event. The format has been used officially since 1993 and will continue to be used for years to come.
Hultquist would agree that Scarpa is one of the most influential people in college tennis. In fact, it was Hultquist that invited the Furman coach to appear as the keynote speaker at the annual First Serve Banquet.
“He is very much of an innovator in college tennis,” Hultquist said. “The format we play now came from him. I look at him as being a very creative guy… Furman is a small school, but they have beaten ACC and SEC teams.”
As the winningest active coach in Division 1, Scarpa has seen almost every angle of the game. He looks forward to the challenges facing his team this year. Four of Furman’s top six players from last year have graduated and Scarpa now has the task of molding new potential into talent, something he has had little trouble with in the past.
“We’re just banking that we’ve gobbled up a little of the inexperience that we’ve had,” said Scarpa. “We hope it just blows away, and we can get on with things. That is what we’re hoping for. I think for us to beat Florida State, we have to play our best.”
The No. 32 Florida State Seminoles play host to Paul Scarpa and the Furman Paladins this Tuesday, March 1 at the Scott Speicher Tennis Center. The match is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m.