Region offers wide variety of college, pro sports

sports things to do

Clemson among elite in ACC

Nationally prominent Atlantic Coast Conference football and men’s basketball programs place Clemson University in elite company in college athletics.

Last season Clemson won the ACC Atlantic Division title in football for the first time and ranked among the top 25 teams in the nation for the fifth time in the decade.

Coach Dabo Swinney was one of two coaches last season to guide his team to a national ranking in his first full year on the job.

Under Oliver Purnell the men’s basketball program has achieved unprecedented success with appearances in three straight NCAA Tournaments and a spot in the ACC championship game for the first time in three decades.

Clemson has not won fewer than 19 games for five straight seasons and its 72 victories from 2006-08 were third only to Duke and North Carolina.

Gamecocks football improving under Spurrier

A member of the Southeastern Conference since 1991, the University of South Carolina has not only ranked among the top 20 in football attendance for many years, but has been bowl eligible in each of its five season with Steve Spurrier as the coach.

The Gamecocks have competed in the bowl games in four of Spurrier’s five seasons as the Gamecock coach.

Some of the athletes who have played for USC are Heisman Trophy winner George Rogers, ASll-American wide receiver Sterling Sharpe and former National Football League player and head coach Dan Reeves.

The Gamecock basketball team is led by coach Darrin Horn who just completed his second season with the team. Senior point guard Devan Downey completed his collegiate career with 1,901 points in three seasons at USC to rank fourth all-time at the school in that category.

USC has also storied history in baseball, having advanced to the College World Series eight times. The Gamecocks finished second three times.

Furman has its share of sports professionals

Furman University has built a legacy of academic and athletic achievement, producing standouts such as golf hall-of-famers Betsy King and Beth Daniel, U.S. National Soccer team member Clint Dempsey and current professional football players Jerome Felton (Detroit Lions), William Middleton (Jacksonville Jaguars) and Brian Bratton (Montreal Alouettes).

Greenville’s only NCAA Division I program, Furman has established a heritage of competitive excellence. The football team, who competes in the Football Bowl Subdivision, won the national championship in 1988. Paul Scarpa is the winningest coach in college tennis history, leading to Paladins to over 830 victories. In 1976, Daniel and King led Furman to a national championship in women’s golf, the first of any South Carolina school.

The Paladins’ athletic facilities are all nestled in one of the nation’s most scenic campuses, located at the foot of Paris Mountain. Furman is the only liberal arts institution ranked in Sports Illustrated Top 100 America’s Best Sports Colleges and was the first private school to win the FCS title.

The Paladins compete in the Southern Conference, along with in-state rivals Wofford, The Citadel and College of Charleston. The fourth oldest conference in the country, the SoCon was founded in 1921. Furman has been a member since 1936, and the Furman football team leads the league with 12 SoCon titles. Furman head coach Bobby Lamb has been part of nine of those, three as a quarterback from 1982-85, five as an assistant coach from 1998-2001 and one as head coach in 2004.

The Greenville Drive Red Sox franchise hosting 2010 All-Star Game

The Greenville Drive opened their sixth season in Greenville in what could be the team’s and the franchise’s biggest year yet.

In June Fluor Field will host the South Atlantic League All-Star Game for the first time.

The stadium has become a favorite of the team and its fans since opening four years ago. It was built as a miniature replica of Fenway Park in Boston, which is the home of the American League’s Boston Red Sox.

The Drive is a Class A affiliate of the Boston club.

The Drive’s stadium has several features similar to the big club’s home, including a smaller version of the famous Green Monster in left field and an especially deep wall in center field. There’s also a slopping lawn down the left field line that is popular among young families who routinely bring a blanket to stretch out on the grass on a comfortable summer evening to watch America’s Pastime.

Greenville-Pickens Speedway a popular place for area race fans

Thousands from Greenville County and across the Upstate have reserved Saturday nights from March to October for some of the best short-track racing around.

The Greenville-Pickens Speedway, located next to the South Carolina Upper State Fairgrounds between Greenville and Easley, has been entertaining racing fans for 65 years.

The speedway features late-model stock, charger, renegade and sportsman racing, and fans can take in the excitement from the grandstand or tailgate from other locations near the track.

Over the years, the half-mile oval has served as a stop for a number of top NASCAR drivers who enjoy using the course for practice and test-runs. In fact, it’s not unusual during the week prior to a big NASCAR event to see the large tractor-trailer rigs used to haul the race cars parked at Greenville-Pickens.

During the racing season, parking for tailgaters normally opens each Saturday at 10 a.m., with the speedway gates opening at 3 p.m.

Tickets are $10, with children 11 and under admitted at no charge with a paying adult.

Region has been good to NASCAR

The Greenville-Spartanburg-Asheville-Anderson metropolitan area may rank only 35th nationally based on the number of television households, but odds are that a good portion of those televisions are tuned in to NASCAR on any given racing weekend.

“It is consistently a Top 10 market,” said Erik Arneson, vice president of media relations for the SPEED motor sports network. “Most recently it was No. 3 for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races.”

Nestled between the racing hotbeds (and tracks) of Charlotte and Atlanta, the Upstate of South Carolina is a NASCAR natural.

Stock car roots run deep in the region, which has produced several notable drivers and crew members, including David Pearson of Spartanburg, who went from 1959 track champion at Greenville-Pickens Speedway to 1960 NASCAR Rookie of the Year.

With three major speedways located within a three-hour drive and three others within a six-hour drive, the Upstate sits in prime territory, for both viewing races in person or watching events available on local cable television packages.

Local racing enthusiasts also are able to whet their appetites for speed by attending races at such paved ovals as Greenville-Pickens Speedway and Anderson Motor Speedway and dirt tracks in Laurens and Gaffney.

Willie Smith, Scott Keepfer