Belmont seen as ‘natural fit’ for Ohio Valley Conference
Posted: Wednesday, August 1, 2012 12:00 pm
By KEVIN WEAKS
Joining the Ohio Valley Conference is all good for Belmont.
Bruins’ baseball head coach Dave Jarvis realizes that it does force his team to make one major adjustment, however.
“The one thing I lost in all of this was a lot of good non-conference games in the middle of the week,” Jarvis said, laughing.
Belmont University of Nashville has officially joined the OVC, bringing the total number of institutions in the league to 12.
Jarvis talked about the move in a telephone interview with The Press last week.
UT Martin, Murray State, Tennessee State, Tennessee Tech and Austin Peay — teams that have been staples on Tuesdays and Wednesdays — will now play Belmont in league games that are reserved for weekends.
And, the man who heads up the OVC’s newest baseball program couldn’t be happier.
“I just think we’re a natural fit in the OVC, for the location of our school and what we’re about,” Jarvis said. “It just seems like a good fit in both directions. When you have good rivalries, it makes everyone better.”
As the second league member located in Nashville — Tennessee State is the other — Belmont has something every real estate agent loves: Location, location, location.
There are now five OVC schools in Tennessee, and Belmont is a mere nine miles north of the league headquarters in Brentwood.
In addition, Murray State is just across the Tennessee state line in southwestern Kentucky.
“For us, we add another regional rivalry that will be close at hand to so many OVC schools,” Jarvis said. “And, it creates so many more natural rivalries for us. Not only is there Tennessee State here in Nashville, but there’s also Tennessee Tech, Austin Peay and UT Martin that will be really good travel opponents for the fans. And, you can also throw Eastern Kentucky in there, which is only 41⁄2 hours away. It will be a whole lot easier on our fans than trips to Florida or some of the places in the A-Sun.”
Jarvis believes there is one very important benefit to becoming a regular name on the schedules of schools that are so close by.
The lifeblood of any collegiate athletic program is recruiting, and Jarvis thinks coming into the OVC will open up a lot of new areas for its 16 men’s and women’s sports teams.
“I think it will have some impact on recruiting just from the standpoint that kids from different areas are going to become familiar with who we are,” Jarvis said. “It opens up new areas for us.”
While the A-Sun Conference was certainly competitive, the OVC could be a step up in the overall level of play.
The Murray State men’s basketball program has gone beyond being a regional power, winning its opening game in the NCAA Tournament in its last two appearances (2010 and 2012) and finishing 31-2 this past season.
In fact, the OVC representative in the men’s tourney has won its opener each of the last four years.
Eastern Kentucky has long been an FCS national power, while Jacksonville State has bulked up the league’s football reputation.
“We feel the competition will be very stiff, and we know its going to be a challenge in the OVC,” Javis pointed out. “There’s no doubt about that.”
There is, of course, a flip side to that.
Belmont is the total package in terms of an athletic program. An NCAA institution since 1997, Belmont joined the A-Sun in 2001.
In just over a decade of conference play, the Bruins claimed 36 Atlantic Sun championships, 12 NCAA Tournament appearances and national Top 25 poll votes in baseball, men’s basketball and women’s basketball.
The school’s academic prowess is impressive as well, and the school is already making its mark in the OVC.
The National Association of Basketball Coaches Honors Court recently recognized nine OVC student-athletes who excelled academically in 2011-12.
Four of those players are from Belmont.
“I think our athletic department as a whole brings in a good level of integrity,” Jarvis said. “The OVC has been a great conference in many sports for such a long period of time and has great tradition. I think Belmont brings a lot to the OVC, and that the OVC brings a lot to our programs. It’s a win-win.”
And, about those mid-week games that will now be weekend series? Belmont won’t hurt for nearby opponents.
In-town rival Lipscomb will likely remain on the schedule of virtually every Bruins’ sports team.
In addition, Vanderbilt, Middle Tennessee and Western Kentucky are close by, while Trevecca Nazarene of Nashville and Union University of Jackson have made the move to NCAA Division II from NAIA and will be more attractive for Belmont scheduling.
Belmont’s first regular season contest as an OVC member takes place Aug. 19 as women’s soccer plays at Toledo. Published in The WCP 7.31.12