• Lillie Burke

Faith and free throws: Wiseman’s journey

She was given the Josten-Berenson Service Award, became the first representative from Belmont in the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame and was dubbed a “Tennessee Sports Legend” by The Tennessean – not to mention she also wrote a book to accompany an impressive travel resume.

But, in former long-time Belmont athletics employee Betty Wiseman’s eyes, the prize is in the process.

The process, now in its 52nd year, began with Wiseman’s acceptance to Belmont as a student, and the rest, she said, was history.

“When I was in school there, I was like a lot of other freshmen. I was homesick the first couple of months, but a lot of the people invested their lives in me– including administration and faculty. It was a place where I found myself, I grew up, I matured.”

Wiseman was a gifted athlete in high school and had even played semi-professional basketball briefly, but determined, after prayerful consideration, that it was not for her.

Knowing that she had been called by God to be a teacher, Wiseman became a professor at Belmont, and was eager to start a women’s basketball program. After a couple of years of research and support from Belmont president Dr. Herbert C. Gabhart, Wiseman became the first women’s basketball coach at Belmont.

“I had never coached anywhere, I didn’t really know what I was doing, but I knew that I was a part of the beginning of something and that I was giving girls an opportunity,” Wiseman said.

The Belmont Rebelettes became one of the best teams in the southeast before the establishment of Title IX, paving the way for women’s athletics and equality on what Wiseman believed was not only an athletic, but professional and academic equality as well.

The team enjoyed four undefeated seasons under Wiseman’s helm as well as a two-year 22 game winning streak at Striplin Gymnasium– a facility that saw match-ups between Belmont and Western Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Tennessee and North Carolina.

Even with her success as a coach, Wiseman’s fire to teach was unquenchable.

Wiseman, a self-described woman of strong faith and a willingness to share the love of God with others, participated in her first overseas mission trip in 1992 and used sports as a platform to share the gospel.

“I began taking my athletes, my students, some faculty and staff, some religion majors, to do ministry around the world. There’s story after story,” Wiseman said.

From then on, Wiseman has participated in over 25 mission trips since 1992, four of which included former men’s basketball standout and current Belmont athletics employee, Wes Burtner.

Burtner traveled on four trips, with the first being to Costa Rica in 1999 with the men’s basketball team.

“A lot of times you go on these trips and feel like you’re going to change the world and impact the students and the kids and the people you work with, and invariably, you come back changed. I saw that,” Burtner said.

Wiseman agreed.

“I think more of anything that’s happened on these trips is that when people get outside their comfort zone, away from their peers, they get away from daily pressures and transplant themselves in another culture, another world, their eyes are opened and not just physically, it’s the eyes of their heart.”

Wiseman’s faith has also been an important recruiting tool up through her retirement this past spring from women’s athletic administrator.

“A few coaches said when she decided to retire, they were going to have to figure out what they were going to do on their recruiting trips, because almost every coach brought their recruits by to see Ms. Wiseman,” Burtner said. “I remember meeting her on my recruiting visit, and thinking, if everybody at Belmont is like her, this is a pretty special place.”

Even though she has officially retired, Wiseman still loves the place and people of Belmont and hopes that student-athletes fall in love with it just as she did.

“I hope during the time that they’re there, when they put that jersey on, every time they put that jersey on, wrapping themselves around with the name Belmont, they represent so much more than they could ever imagine. Heritage, people who have gone before them, who have paved the way and made the way for them and their opportunity,” Wiseman said.

It is hard to find an athlete– former or current who have not not been impacted by Betty Wiseman’s love and encouragement.

Senior men’s basketball guard/forward JJ Mann likened Wiseman to a rock that student athletes could rely on during a mission trip Wiseman led in Naples, Italy in 2011.

“That trip was life changing. She was the rock for all of us on the trip,” Mann said. “We all called her ‘The Closer’ because we were young in our faith and were trying to lead others, so when people said they were ready to accept Jesus, we would send people to Bee-Dub and she would handle it.”

Women’s soccer midfielder Amy Jo Anderson and men’s soccer defender Charlie Dankert, members of Belmont’s chapter of FCA, are appreciative of Wiseman’s willingness to facilitate the program as well as how she has treated them at Belmont.

“Bee-Dub never meets a stranger,” Anderson said, “The first time she met me, it was like she had known me for ten years.”

“When she’s acting, she’s not acting for her,” Dankert said, “She’s acting as a way to show us how God can be and it’s easy to recognize that God is acting through her and using her.”

Former women’s basketball player and recent graduate, Alyssa Visbeen can attest to Wiseman’s faith in action.

Before the 2012-2013 season began, Visbeen discovered that her father had been diagnosed with cancer for the second time. Visbeen came to Wiseman’s office, where Wiseman prayed with and for Visbeen immediately.

“I was trying to fight through 19 hours of class, basketball and my dad going through radiation everyday and I would have to step out of practice to take phone calls from the doctor, and Bee-Dub would be out there standing with me,” Visbeen said.

Wiseman prayed with Visbeen continually and helped provide the support Visbeen needed to complete her degree at Belmont.

“That’s why I stayed there so long, was so I could be part of the transformation of people’s lives. The prize is always in the process. The prize is not in championships,” Wiseman said. “I thank God for 52 years on that campus. I’ll be coming back and supporting and encouraging.”

Wiseman’s example has laid the foundation for programs past, present and future.

“Bee-Dub is Belmont women’s basketball. She’s the epitome of everything that we stand for as a team and everything that we hope to be,” Visbeen said.

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