While it certainly hasn’t gained the national prominence rivalries such as Duke-North Carolina or Kentucky-Louisville have achieved, Nashville’s own Battle of the Boulevard between Belmont and Lipscomb has earned a fierce local reputation of its own.
The rivalry takes its name from Belmont Boulevard, a two-way street that hosts both Belmont and Lipscomb, who are just over two miles apart from each other. Lipscomb’s McQuiddy Gym played host to the first Battle, as the Belmont Rebels defeated the Lipscomb Bisons 72-53 on Dec. 11, 1953.
From then on, both schools proceeded to dominate NAIA athletics, with Belmont winning 17 of 25 matches between the two schools from 1964 to 1976. Much like the hairstyles and music of the 1980s, the rivalry also reached new heights. In 1986, Rick Byrd would take the head coaching position and lead Belmont to national NAIA prominence. By 1990, the two schools played their annual Battle off the Boulevard in front of about 16,000 fans at Vanderbilt’s Memorial Gymnasium.
By the late ’90s, both schools shifted their programs from NAIA to the NCAA and would build new facilities worthy of their their new Division I status. Belmont adopted a new mascot, the Bruin, and would see its first NCAA Tournament action in men’s basketball nearly 10 years later in 2006. Belmont was also invited to the big dance in 2007, 2008 and 2011.
Once again, Belmont is in a period of transition after the school announced its move from the Atlantic Sun Conference to the Ohio Valley Conference in summer 2012. The future of the Battle of the Boulevard is unknown, although both schools want to ensure the Battle lives on in all sports. While some people are upset at the notion that Belmont and Lipscomb may not play each other as regularly as they would in conference play, I’m anxious to see what else is in store for the Bruins.
Not including Belmont, the OVC has four other schools within Tennessee: Austin Peay, Tennessee State, Tennessee-Martin, and Tennessee Tech. With that, the possibility of Belmont fans traveling on road games is considerably greater than what it is today. The same could be said for the fans of other conference schools coming to Nashville.
There’s also no doubt that whenever Belmont plays Lipscomb, East Tennessee State, Middle Tennessee State or even the occasional match against Tennessee, the intensity of the game is heightened, regardless of the teams’ records or conference affiliations.
So, as Belmont looks to face Lipscomb for the last time in regular season Atlantic Sun play Feb. 3, enjoy the game. Feel free to live and die by each play. Soak up every electrifying moment the Battle of the Boulevard has to offer—after all, it’s practice for what likely is in store for both Belmont and the Bruin faithful in the years to come.
Sports editor Katie Greene is a sophomore mass communications major.