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Arlo Elkins, Palmetto State tennis icon and longtime University of South Carolina women's tennis head coach, died Saturday, March 31, 2012, at his home in Columbia, S.C., after losing his fight with cancer. He was 62. Elkins stepped aside from day-to-day activities as head coach on Feb. 28, 2012, for health-related reasons. A memorial service celebrating his life was held April 4, 2012, in The Zone at Williams-Brice Stadium.
"It was a very sad day for South Carolina Athletics with the passing of Arlo Elkins," said Athletics Director Eric Hyman. "We lost a member of our family. Coach Elkins was an icon in our department for 29 years. The focus in his life was on our student-athletes in the women's tennis program. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Elkins family. He will be dearly missed."
Elkins served as the University's women's tennis head coach beginning Aug. 15, 1983. Elkins ended his career at Carolina with a record of 438-291 (.601) and 19 NCAA Tournament appearances. South Carolina has made 17 NCAA Tournaments in a row and reached at least the second round in 15 of those appearances. The Gamecocks' 17 straight NCAA bids stand tied for the 11th longest active streak in the nation. Elkins' teams reached the NCAA Sweet 16 four times (1990, 1995, 1999, 2009) during his career and made one trip to the quarterfinals in 2009. In 15 of his seasons, Carolina appeared in the top 25 of the Intercollegiate Tennis Association's season-ending poll.
The Gamecocks were no strangers to the NCAA Singles and Doubles Championships as well under Elkins. South Carolina had at least one individual compete in the NCAA Championships in 21 of his 28 seasons. In 1994, Helen Crook and Victoria Davies became Elkins' first All-Americans when they reached the semifinal round of the NCAA Doubles Championship. Counting the individual and team tournaments, the Gamecocks earned representation in some way at the NCAA Championships for 22 straight years under his watch.
In addition to the success enjoyed by Elkins' program as a whole, many student-athletes earned individual accolades throughout his career. A total of 14 Gamecocks captured All-Southeastern Conference recognition during his reign. Seven Gamecocks were awarded ITA regional certificates, which in addition to Rookie of the Year included recognition for Senior Player of the Year, Player to Watch and the Leadership and Sportsmanship Award.
Year after year, Elkins demonstrated his passion to see his student-athletes succeed in more than just tennis. The South Carolina women's tennis program boasts one of the athletics department's top team grade point averages, frequently at or above 3.4. The women's tennis team led all Gamecock squads for the highest semester GPA in spring 2011 with a 3.576 mark. Under Elkins, 41 Gamecocks earned SEC Academic Honor Roll recognition 98 times.
Elkins is also noted for his significant contributions to women's college tennis. His involvement with the Intercollegiate Tennis Association early in his career led him to help create the ITA All-American Championships for women. Previously, the championships only existed for men, but he became a catalyst behind the creation of a national event for the women. He helped bring the event to Myrtle Beach, S.C., where it existed for several years until moving to Pacific Palisades, Calif., where it continues to be played today. The ITA All-American Championships are one of three Grand Slam events in college tennis today.
Individually, Elkins received many awards during his tenure in the Palmetto State. In 1988, he was tapped United States Professional Tennis Association Southern Division Coach of the Year while also earning the South Carolina Tennis Association College Coach of the Year and ITA Southeast Region Coach of the Year awards. Seven years later, he became the first head coach at South Carolina in any sport to win SEC Coach of the Year. Elkins was named the 1994 and 1996 ITA Southeast Region Coach of the Year as well, and in December 2003, he was inducted into the South Carolina Tennis Association Hall of Fame. Elkins is a member of the Rockford High School Hall of Fame in Rockford, Mich., as well.
Before becoming a coach, Elkins played professionally and competed in the main draws at Wimbledon and the French Open. He also played in more than 50 different countries, and in 1978, Elkins was ranked among the top 200 in the world. Within the state of South Carolina, Elkins was ranked No. 1 in singles, doubles and mixed doubles in men's open 25- and 35-year-old age groups. Elkins worked as the director of tennis and head professional at Spring Valley Country Club in Columbia prior to taking over the head coaching reigns at South Carolina.
Elkins graduated from Northwood Institute with a Bachelor of Arts in business in 1971. He was a four-year starter for the Midland, Mich., based school at No. 1 singles.
Elkins is survived by his wife, Tara, three children, Alyssa, Elliott, and Kelsey, and grandchildren Jayne Mac, Asher, Eloise, Sadie, and Charlie.
* Elkins stepped aside as head coach on Feb. 28, 2012