Longtime Furman women’s tennis coach Debbie Southern is a member of the Southern Conference Hall of Fame class for 2018, as announced by the league office this week.
The class includes four legendary coaches and two standout student-athletes and marks the first-ever inductees for The Citadel, VMI, Western Carolina and Wofford. This year’s group of individuals represents the eighth class of inductees into the league’s Hall of Fame, highlighting 97 years of athletic success.
Southern becomes the seventh Paladin selection to the SoCon Hall of Fame since its inception in 2009. Other Furman inductees include women’s tennis standout Megan Dunigan and men’s basketball star Frank Selvy, who were among the members of the inaugural class, longtime Furman men’s tennis coach Paul Scarpa, women’s basketball player Rushia Brown, men’s soccer great Clint Dempsey, and men’s golfer Brad Faxon.
“What an incredible honor to enter a hall with so many outstanding athletes, coaches, and administrators in the Southern Conference,” said Southern. “I am stunned and grateful for the opportunity to be in the SoCon Hall of Fame. To be recognized for doing something you absolutely loved is amazing. Thank you to the SoCon Hall of Fame committee for selecting me for the 2018 class.”
Southern led the Furman women’s tennis program to unprecedented heights during her 31-year tenure, which spanned from 1985-2015. She guided the Paladins to 461 overall wins and a 213-22 SoCon record (.906 winning percentage) prior to her retirement in 2015, including a streak of 100 consecutive league wins from 1998-2010, a streak that has never been matched in any league sport.
She coached Furman to 19 regular-season SoCon titles, 16 league tournament titles and nine NCAA berths. She was a 14-time SoCon Coach of the Year and saw her players earn 14 SoCon Player of the Year awards, including four-time winner Dunigan.
Southern coached nine SoCon Freshman of the Year award winners, five SoCon Sportsmanship Award winners, 12 SoCon Championship Most Outstanding Players and more than 150 All-SoCon selections. She also coached 33 individual and 16 doubles champions from 1985-97 before the SoCon Championship changed from an individual to a team scoring format.
In 2000, she became the first person to earn the South Carolina Tennis Association Coach of the Year award on two separate occasions (1991 & 2000). Southern was inducted into the South Carolina Tennis Hall of Fame in 2004, the ITA Women’s Collegiate Tennis Hall of Fame, along with her late father and her mother, in 2012, and the Furman Athletics Hall of Fame in 2013. She also was inducted into the R.J. Reynolds High School Sports Hall of Fame in 2015. A member of the class of 1977 at R.J. Reynolds, she competed in both tennis and basketball for the Demons.
A native of Winston-Salem, N.C., and a 1981 graduate of the University of Tennessee, Southern currently resides in Asheville, N.C.
Other SoCon Hall of Fame inductees for 2018 include Mike Ayers (ETSU/Wofford), Ron Carter (VMI), Susan Gardner Mayhorn (Western Carolina), Chal Port (The Citadel), and Les Robinson (The Citadel/ETSU), who was elected as a special contributor.
Student-athletes who competed for a minimum of two seasons in the Southern Conference were eligible for consideration, along with coaches and administrators who spent at least five years in the league. A pool of more than 200 candidates from the conference’s current and former member institutions were nominated for consideration. The pool of former student-athletes, coaches and administrators was cut down to 40 individuals who comprised the final ballot. A voting panel of 20 media members and league administrators made the selection of the induction class.
Julie Paré, Furman Sports Information