When former Belmont head baseball coach Dave Whitten died Wednesday, Belmont athletic director Mike Strickland said the school lost one of its landmark leaders.
“He was one of those coaches that built our whole program. There’s Larry Striplin, Betty Wiseman and Dave Whitten. They’re the cornerstone of our athletic program,” said Strickland.
Whitten spent nearly thirty years leading the Belmont program from 1970 to 1997. In that time, he was named conference coach of the year honors five times, had eight VSAC/TCAC division titles and led the then-Rebels to three straight conference titles from 1975-1977.
“As a baseball coach, he will be the standard bearer that we will all be measured against in future years as far as baseball coaches are concerned.” said current baseball head coach Dave Jarvis. “Dave Whitten built Belmont baseball over the course of the 29 years he was here. The program survives and thrives under his leadership and guidance.”
He ended his 22-year coaching career with a program record of 655-453.
Whitten was inducted into the Tennessee Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 1998, and was one of three charter members of the Belmont Athletic Hall of Fame in 1980.
Whitten also played a key role in Belmont baseball’s transition from NAIA to the NCAA, Jarvis said.
“Dave stayed with me for three years as my pitching coach,” he said. “In that time, he and I developed a very close friendship that has continued throughout the course of the past 15 years. Saying goodbye is very difficult. I have not only lost somebody that has been a mentor in baseball and in coaching, but somebody that was a dear friend to me as well.”
Strickland said Whitten not only defined what a coach can be, but also what a Belmont person can be.
“When you talk about what a Belmont person is, and a Belmont coach and the kind of thing we reflect at Belmont, Coach Whitten is the prime example of what Belmont athletics is all about,” he said. “He has represented us and will continue to be a part of our presentation… He was a superb gentleman, and a wonderful man. He was a coach and a mentor to those guys even after they’d get to be 60 years old and would want to talk to him about their grandchildren.”
Whitten’s memorial service will be held this Sunday, Sept. 23 at Woodlawn Memorial Park. A viewing will be held from 1-4 p.m., with the service to follow.