It’s a well-known fact that Vince Gill is Belmont’s No. 1 men’s basketball fan. From the room bearing his name to his season tickets and seat directly behind the bench, Gill has become a mainstay in the Curb Event Center. He yells, he cheers at every game and yet no one questions why Gill chose Belmont as his Nashville team of choice. We here at the Belmont Vision decided it was time to answer that question. Features editor Gracie Helms spoke with longtime Nashville native and country music legend about why he chose to “Be Belmont.”
Belmont Vision: So what caused you to be such an adamant fan?
Vince Gill: Oh, that would just be my friendship with Rick Byrd. We met on the golf course some 27 years ago and got to talking and he told me he was the head coach for a small team at a small school nearby. He said if I ever wanted to come to any games to just let him know, and I did. Now I go to all the games I can make it to. At the end of the day, it’s a testament to a great friendship. I don’t have a better friend than Ricky Byrd.
BV: How often are you able to make it to the games?
VG: I go really every chance I get. I missed the OVC Tournament last weekend because I was doing some stuff with George Strait; I was really sad about missing it and not there to support the team.
BV: What has kept you coming to games over the years?
VG: Well, what I’ve enjoyed most are the kids Rick recruits. You know, he’s a great coach. He’s not a win-at-all-costs kind of coach and that’s not solely what he picks his kids on. He’s the kind of coach that picks great kids, that simple. You know, he’s not a stepping-stone into the NBA; I think he’s only ever had one kid have a chance at the NBA and that was just last season. But he is a man of great character, he’s honest, he’s pure and he’s old school, in a good way.
BV: What is your all time favorite moment in Belmont basketball history?
VG: There are a lot. But probably the best game I’ve ever been to was when Belmont played Lipscomb in the Memorial Gymnasium on Vanderbilt’s campus back in the late 80s, early 90s. It was a little tiny gym and 15,000 people were stuffed in there, cheering and screaming and going crazy over these two little schools. That was small college rivalry at the best I’ve ever seen. And of course the NCAA tournaments have been a great triumph.
Another moment was when Belmont beat Carolina this season. I mean that was a great game.
BV: What’s your favorite thing about Belmont basketball?
VG: I think it’s watching the program grow over the years. The first game I ever went to, I was the only person in the bleachers. I think this town should really come to more games. I know there are a lot of options with Vanderbilt, Lipscomb, TSU and the Predators even. There are a lot of competing factors in the way of sports entertainment. But if anyone wants good basketball, Belmont is the way to go.
BV: What’s the craziest thing to ever happen to you at a game?
VG: There have been a few episodes where I’ve been known to get under the other team’s skin pretty badly. And I’m also known to dog the refs pretty bad. You know, give them a little lip service and you know … some people haven’t liked that. But Rick likes me back there and thinks it’s fun and so do I.