Separated by less than three miles, the Battle of the Boulevard rivalry between Belmont and Lipscomb is one of the physically closest rivalries in the nation.
For the past nine years, that rivalry came with more implications than bragging rights with both teams in the Atlantic Sun Conference.
But starting this year, Belmont made the switch from the Atlantic Sun to the Ohio Valley Conference. This change in conference has prompted Belmont’s athletics teams to carry out the scheduling of the Battle games in a variety of ways.
Each team listed below builds their own non-conference schedule and is free to pick the format of their Battle of the Boulevard or if the matchup will be played at all.
Belmont and Lipscomb baseball programs have never had a season where a Battle was not played since 1954, when the program first started at Belmont.
Coach Dave Jarvis contributes the streak to the late former coach Dave Whitten and his counterpart at Lipscomb, Ken Dugan.
“I think that goes all the way back through Coach Dugan and Coach Whitten and their programs and everything they stood for,” Jarvis said. “We maintained that rivalry and relationship and continue to play them in consecutive years. I’m proud of the fact.”
The 59-year streak will continue for the 2013 season. Belmont has scheduled a home-and-home series with the Bisons.
Coach Jarvis said it will likely continue that way until 2014, but hasn’t ruled out the possibility of a three-game series in the future.
“We compete against each other tooth and nail out there on the court or field in whatever sport we are playing,” Jarvis said. “But at the end of the day, we come together and we still have very similar values and goals. We represent a lot of the same things and we recognize that.”
For the softball team, the rivalry between the two teams is more heated, according to coach Chris Kuhlmeyer.
“For us, anytime you mention Lipscomb, the girls say, ‘Oh we hate those guys. We want to beat them’,” Kuhlmeyer said. “At the same time, we have respect for each other and what we stand for.”
With the conference change, the softball team will look to schedule a midweek doubleheader for this season and in the future, switching fields every year.
“It’s a tradition in every single sport. A traditional rival always means something,” Kuhlmeyer said. “We always want to look back and say we had Lipscomb.”
Both programs want to continue raising breast cancer awareness as part of the Battle series after the success of last year’s first annual “Pink Edition” of the rivalry game.
“The strikeout cancer last year was a popular event for us and them and is one we want to continue,” Kuhlmeyer said.
Since the men’s soccer team is the only team at Belmont that does not have a conference, the rivalry match versus the Bisons could be scheduled during the regular season.
“Even with not being in the same conference anymore, it’s a still a big rivalry,” said Earle Davidson, the men’s soccer coach. “There is still a lot of pride in place. It’s still big picture for us every year.”
The closeness of the players from both teams is something Davidson thinks contributes to the rivalry as well. Many of the men play in the same summer leagues and are part of a tight-knit community.
Davidson said that the proximity between the schools has allowed for the teams to be flexible enough to schedule the game.
“It’s worked out well so far,” Davidson said. “Not already having it done and in the schedule, there may be some years will be difficult to get it together. But it’s something that both ourselves and Coach Morrow over at Lipscomb are intent on continuing.”
As one of the few teams to not host Lipscomb during the regular season, women’s soccer participated in a preseason exhibition match against the Bisons.
While there was only an exhibition match played this season, a regular season game is already scheduled officially for 2013.
Coach Heather Henson said the rivalry will always continue to grow because of the closeness and fans that fuel it.
“It was always a growing one with it being right down the street, five minutes away,” Henson said. “Fans travel easier and the support of the fans is huge to help build rivalry. It’s a professional sports type of environment.”
Volleyball: Because of the conference change, the volleyball team did not face Lipscomb in any kind of match this season, one of the few Belmont teams to not play the rivalry game this year.
However, this is not the first time that the volleyball Battle of the Boulevard has experienced a break.
Like most programs during the late ‘90s move to the NCAA, Belmont and Lipscomb did not face each other as part of the rivalry series. The game was picked back up after Lipscomb followed the Bruins into the Atlantic Sun in 2003.