Oct. 19, 2005
Columbia, S.C. – South Carolina men’s tennis head coach Kent DeMars will be a part of the inaugural athletic Hall of Fame class at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville. DeMars will be inducted as head coach of the 1978 SIUE men’s tennis team that captured the school’s first national title in tennis, and began an NCAA-record streak of seven straight national titles.
“Anytime you get elected into a Hall of Fame by your peers, you are certainly honored,” DeMars said. “Of course that’s where I came from and those are my roots, as well as some of my best years. It was my first everything, first collegiate job, first great team, first national titles for the team and individuals; it’s where I learned the trade. All of those memories are very special to me. I still have the jersey from that first national title team.”
DeMars, a native of East St. Louis, Ill., began the men’s tennis program at SIUE in 1974, had the Cougars in the nation’s top five by the 1976 and led the team to the NCAA Division II national title in 1978. The success did not stop there for DeMars, as he took the Cougars on a historical run of seven consecutive national titles. At the time, that run set an NCAA record for consecutive national championships, not only in tennis, but in all team sports. That record is still good for second all-time in Division II, just one championship behind Lander’s men’s tennis team, who broke the record with their eighth straight men’s tennis title in 2000.
DeMars left his post at SIUE following their seventh championship season and became the fifth head coach at the University of South Carolina on June 11, 1984.
It did not take long for DeMars to raise the USC program to a higher level, as he had the Gamecocks in the nation’s top 10 the next two years. Then he took 1989 squad to the best finish ever for a Carolina team in a bracket-format tournament, making the Final Four and taking home third-place honors, as well as the 1989 ITA-Wilson National Coach of the Year award. After winning six Metro Conference Championships in seven years, USC and Coach DeMars joined the nation’s most powerful tennis conference, the SEC. Just two years after making the jump, DeMars had his team back in the NCAA Championships, and has taken the Gamecocks to the last 12 straight NCAA tournaments, including two Sweet 16 appearances in 1998 and 2005. DeMars passed another milestone last season, and became USC’s all-time winningest men’s tennis coach (330 wins) with a 5-2 victory over Arkansas on March 4, 2005.
In addition to having his 1978 squad inducted, one of DeMars’ best players will be entering SIUE’s Hall of Fame as well. Arjun Fernando was a seven-time All-American for the Cougars and is tied for the all-time record in individual titles won (singles and doubles championships) in Division II. He is tied with another of Coach DeMars’ protégés, Ken Flach, who went on to win gold in doubles at the 1984 Olympics, the doubles championship at the 1985 U.S. Open and back-to-back doubles titles at the 1987-88 Wimbledon Championships.
The induction will be held on Saturday, Oct. 22, at the Vadalabene Gymansium on the campus of SIUE.
DeMars’ Gamecocks hit the courts again on Thursday, Oct. 20, at the ITA Mideast Regional. Stay tuned to www.uscsports.com for more information when the draws are released.