To some she is a trailblazer, a pioneer and a living legend.
But to the folks at Belmont athletics, she is simply Betty Wiseman, a beloved university mainstay for 52 years.
That position as a campus fixture is now ending with Wiseman’s retirement this Friday. Her announcement comes three months after Wiseman was diagnosed with breast cancer.
Women’s basketball program founder began her journey as a student at Belmont in 1961. A year after graduating, Wiseman joined the faculty as an associate professor of health and physical education. She approached then-President Herbert Gabhart about wanting to start a women’s basketball team not long after.
In 1968, the program was officially founded and headed up by Wiseman herself for the first 16 years. Belmont’s program was the first of its kind in the Southeast.
“All I wanted was to give girls an opportunity. When I was in college here at Belmont, I kept saying ‘Why? Why is there not anything for women?’ Then I began to say ‘Why not?’ …,” said Wiseman to the City Paper. “I just feel blessed that Dr. Gabhart listened and he didn’t turn me away.”
During her tenure as coach, Wiseman’s teams won 62 percent of their games and made four straight National Women’s Invitational Tournament appearances in the 1970s.
For the past 30 years, Wiseman has served a role in Belmont athletics administration, eventually becoming the assistant athletic director/senior women’s administrator.
Wiseman was named to the Belmont Athletics Hall of Fame in 1981 and became the first Belmont coach in the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame when she was inducted in 2004.