Payne Named Recipient of Hugh Durham Award as Nation’s Top Mid-Major Coach

March 30, 2012 at 9:33 pm

SPARTANBURG, S.C. – After leading the Spartans to a 21-13 record and an appearance in the second round of the College Insider Tournament, USC Upstate head coach Eddie Payne has been named the recipient of the prestigious Hugh Durham Award.

“It is an honor to be recognized for the national award,” said Payne.  “It is a tribute to a group of hardworking coaches and players.  My thanks go out to these individuals who sacrificed tremendously for our program.”

The Hugh Durham Award is given annually to the nation’s top mid-major coach. In 2005 the Mid-Major Coach of the Year award was renamed in honor of Hugh Durham, the coaching legend who had retired at the end of the 2004-05 season.

Durham is one of just twelve coaches to have led two different programs to the NCAA Final Four (Florida State in 1972 and Georgia in 1983). He is the only coach among that group to have led both schools to their lone Final Four appearance.

“Eddie has done a fine job,” stated Durham.  “To win more than 20 games, the first year you are eligible for the postseason conference tournament, is pretty impressive. It’s a great story.”

Upstate’s 21 wins are the most for the Spartans in the D-I era and are more than the club posted the three previous seasons combined.  Coach Payne and the Spartans currently own the best turnaround in all of Division I with a 16-win improvement compared to the 2010-11 season.

The Spartans are just the second team to post 20 or more wins in their first season of full NCAA D-I eligibility after completing the five-year transition from D-II to D-I.  North Dakota State posted 26 wins in their first season of full eligibility (2008-09).

“The Upstate men’s basketball team had a great year, and everyone associated with the university can take pride in that,” said Upstate Chancellor, Dr. Tom Moore.  “They did it with great hustle and team play, which demonstrates how well they were coached.  Coach Payne is most deserving of this award, and the Upstate family is thrilled to be able to celebrate this wonderful recognition with him, his family, and his team.”

Coach Payne was also tabbed as the Atlantic Sun’s Coach of the Year (as voted upon by the league’s head coaches) as well as earning A-Sun Coach of the Year honors by College Insider.

“I am very excited for Eddie to receive the Hugh Durham award,” said Mike Hall, Director of Athletics.  “This award is a testament to many long hours of coaching, recruiting, and daily pouring himself into our young student-athletes.  This award is exciting for his family, his assistants and support staff and most of all to his student-athletes. We are proud to have had the best turnaround in NCAA Division I this season. The campus community was a buzz this year because of the success of men’s basketball and for the leadership of Coach Payne. This is a great day for Eddie, our program and University.”

When the Spartans hit the hardwood for the 2012-13 season, Upstate will welcome back Torrey Craig (Great Falls, S.C.), the A-Sun Player of the Year, Ty Greene (Knoxville, Tenn.), the A-Sun Freshman of the Year, as well as seven other prominent freshmen and sophomores.