Belmont Women’s Basketball To Play In Gulf Coast Showcase Over Thanksgiving Weekend

After their most historic season, Belmont’s women’s basketball team will play in the 2022 Gulf Coast Showcase. The tournament will be held over Thanksgiving Weekend from Nov. 25-27 inside Hertz Arena in Estero, Florida, and will feature six NCAA Tournament teams from last season.

Joining the Bruins in southwest Florida will be Air Force, three-time national champion Baylor, Georgia Tech, Michigan, Saint Louis, South Florida and Villanova. Michigan reached last year’s Elite Eight, while Belmont, Baylor and Villanova all appeared in the Round of 32. Georgia Tech and South Florida also made the NCAA Tournament field this past March.

Seven of the eight participants in this year’s event made national postseason play in 2021-22, while half the tournament field won at least one game in the 2022 NCAA Tournament.

“This year’s Gulf Coast Showcase field is deep with six teams from last year’s March Madness field and some of the top coaches in the game,” says Gulf Coast Showcase Women’s Tournament Director and CBS/ESPN analyst Debbie Antonelli. “The Bears may enter as the favorite but there are some great teams, led by some outstanding coaches in this year’s field, so any of these eight could go home with the hardware on Sunday night.”

Belmont will face Villanova in the Gulf Coast Showcase quarterfinals Friday, Nov. 25 at 12:30 p.m. CT with the winner advancing to play either Baylor or Saint Louis in the semifinals. This matchup is the first-ever meeting between Wildcats and the Bruins.

The tournament bracket also includes consolation matchups with all teams guaranteed three games across the weekend.

Belmont reached its second consecutive NCAA Tournament Round of 32 as a No. 12 seed this past season with a thrilling, double-overtime victory over fifth-seeded Oregon. The Wildcats upset sixth-seeded BYU 61-57 in the First Round as a No. 11 seed.

Past Gulf Coast Showcase champions include UConn (2014), Stanford (2015), Baylor (2016), Notre Dame (2017), Texas (2018), Gonzaga (2019) and Iowa State (2021).

MTSU Set To Retire Kevin Byard’s Number

Kevin Byard at MTSU. Photo: Courtesy of MT Athletics

Middle Tennessee legend and Tennessee Titans All-Pro Kevin Byard will have his No. 20 jersey number retired on Sept. 30 during a ceremony at the Blue Raiders’ home game against UTSA.

Byard will join Teddy Morris as the only other player in MTSU football history to have his number retired, whose No. 14 was retired in 1965.

“I am truly honored and blessed to have my jersey number retired at MTSU,” Byard notes. “A lot of blood, sweat, and tears went into making this a reality. Thank you to my coaches, training staff, faculty members, and most importantly my teammates who all played a major role in my success during the five years I attended Middle.”

Byard, a four-year starter for the Blue Raiders from 2012-15, ended his career as the program’s all-time leader in interceptions (19), interception return yards (377), interception return touchdowns (4) and is one of just nine players in school history with 300 or more tackles. A team captain, Byard forced or gained 25 turnovers (19 INT, 5 FF, 1 FR) in 49 career games played.

“This is an incredible honor for any athlete to have their number retired,” says Head Coach Rick Stockstill. “I am very proud of Kevin in what he accomplished here at Middle Tennessee and how he has transitioned into one of the best players in the NFL. More important than his skills as an elite athlete is how he has represented himself, his family, MTSU football and the Titans in a first class manner. KB is very deserving of this honor of having his number hanging in the stadium forever.”

The Lithonia, Georgia native was a first team all-conference selection and an FWAA Freshman All-American while leading the team in interceptions all four years.

“Kevin embodies all of the qualities that warrant having a person’s number retired,” says Athletic Director Chris Massaro. “Kevin is a high character individual who always exhibited a tremendous work ethic. He is a great leader who always gives his all on and off the field. We are very fortunate that Kevin has continued representing our University so well in our local market as a Tennessee Titan. This retirement is in appreciation for all Kevin has done for MTSU and what he continues to do as a Tennessee Titan and beyond.”

Byard was selected with the first pick of the third round in the 2016 NFL Draft by the Tennessee Titans and is now considered one of the top safeties in the NFL. He is a two-time All-Pro pick and was named the team’s Walter Payton Man of the Year winner in 2020 for his work in the community.

From 2017 through 2019, Byard led the NFL with 17 interceptions and in 2020 he led the team and set a career-high with 111 tackles.

Joe Deyo, Dave Joseph Named New PA Announcers For Vanderbilt Athletics

Vanderbilt Stadium. Photo: Courtesy of Vanderbilt Athletics / Daniel Dubois

With the college football and soccer seasons just weeks away, Vanderbilt Athletics has announced that Joe Deyo and Dave Joseph will serve as public address announcers for its football, baseball and soccer programs.

Deyo will serve as the football public address announcer, while Joseph will be the public address announcer for baseball and soccer.

Deyo is a veteran announcer with more than nine years and 300 games of public address experience to Vanderbilt Stadium. He has worked with Lipscomb and announced games for the Atlantic Sun Conference basketball tournament, and he was a finalist in the Tennessee Titans public address announcer search in 2021.

Joseph has worked with the Los Angeles Kings for seven seasons, as well as on events and games for the Los Angeles Dodgers, Los Angeles Galaxy, UCLA and USC. He was the public address announcer for the 2014 Stanley Cup, 2017 NHL All-Star Game, 2020 AHL All-Star Game and 2021 MLS All-Star Game. A native of Ishpeming, Michigan, he was also selected as a finalist in the Titans’ public address announcer search in 2021.

The Vanderbilt Athletics public address announcer search was spearheaded by an internal committee. The four-step process began with all applicants submitting recordings, followed by interviews and a second round of recordings. Candidates then went through live auditions followed by a fan vote.

Belmont University Undergoes Athletic Department Realignment

Scott Corley. Photo: Courtesy of Belmont Athletics

Belmont University is realigning its athletic department which includes a series of staff promotions leading into the schools first year in the Missouri Valley Conference.

Renee Schultz has been elevated to Senior Associate Athletic Director for Student-Athlete Success/Senior Woman Administrator. Schultz will oversee areas of academic support, student-athlete services & career development, sport ministry, NCAA compliance, sports medicine, and sports performance.

Josh Ward has been elevated to Senior Associate Athletic Director for External Engagement. Ward will oversee areas of athletic marketing, revenue generation – including sales and sponsorships, licensing and ticketing, brand management, and messaging.

James Woody has been elevated to Senior Associate Athletic Director for Administration. Woody will oversee areas of internal operations, budget and finance, human resources, facilities, and event management.

Schultz, Ward and Woody join Belmont University Vice President/Director of Athletics Scott Corley to comprise the athletic executive leadership team.

“As Belmont athletics begins a new chapter in the Missouri Valley Conference, this felt like the ideal time to realign people and responsibilities within our department,” Corley says. “These moves will allow us to become more efficient and responsive to the needs of our student-athletes and coaches. Equally important, it allows me the opportunity to reward many members of the staff with well-deserved promotions and added responsibilities.”

Corley announced the following staff promotions and title changes:

  • Kim Anderson has been elevated to Director of Sports Medicine.
  • Luke Bolanos has been elevated to Director of Athletic Communication.
  • Heather Copeland has been elevated to Associate Athletic Director for Compliance.
  • Colette Keyser has been elevated to Associate Athletic Director for Student-Athlete Success.
  • John Langdon has been elevated to Director of Compliance & Student-Athlete Development.
  • Dr. Ryan Neises has been elevated to Director of Student-Athlete Formation.
  • ReAnna Rice has been elevated to Assistant Director of Administration.
  • Greg Sage has been elevated to Associate Athletic Director for Broadcasting & Media Relations.
  • Jarrett Thompson has been elevated to Assistant Director of Sports Performance.

The department realignment includes the following changes to sport oversight:

  • Schultz assumes sport oversight for women’s basketball, volleyball, women’s soccer and women’s golf.
  • Ward assumes sport oversight for men’s soccer and cheerleading.
  • Copeland assumes sport oversight for softball and women’s tennis.
  • Keyser assumes sport oversight for baseball.
  • Steve Barrick assumes sport oversight for men’s tennis.

Corley maintains sport oversight for men’s basketball, men’s golf, and men’s and women’s cross country and track & field.

College Corner: Vanderbilt Football, MTSU vs. Memphis, Vanderbilt Basketball

Vanderbilt’s Wright, Bresnahan, Orji Named To Pre-Season Watch Lists

Mike Wright. Photo: Courtesy of Vanderbilt Athletics

College football season is a little over a month away and Vanderbilt standouts Mike Wright, Ben Bresnahan and Anfernee Orji have been named to multiple pre-season watch lists.

Wright earned a spot on the Maxwell Award watch list, given to the player of the year by the Maxwell Football Club, while Bresnahan has been named to the Mackey Award watch list and selected as a nominee for the Allstate AFCA Good Works Team. Orji was picked to the Butkus Award watch list, given to the nation’s best linebacker by the Butkus Foundation.

As quarterback in 2021, Wright eclipsed 1,000 passing yards with eight touchdowns, while also rushing for just shy of 400 yards in five games. In his first collegiate start at South Carolina, he threw for 206 yards and ran for 43 while falling one point shy of a victory.

Bresnahan has appeared in 31 games during his time in Nashville, making 20 starts. In that time, he’s caught 45 passes for 509 yards and four touchdowns. Bresnahan’s most productive season was 2020 when he caught 80 percent of passes thrown to him and was rated as one of the top 10 tight ends in the SEC per pro football focus.

Orji led the Commodores with 93 total tackles a season ago, while also pacing the team with 13 tackles for loss. He started all 12 games and finished 12th in the SEC in total tackles. His 13 tackles in the victory at Colorado State were the most by a Vandy player in a single game last season.

 

 

MTSU Football Agrees To Home-And-Home Series With Memphis

Middle Tennessee State University and the University of Memphis have agreed on a home-and-home football series, as announced jointly by both schools on Tuesday (July 26).

The first game is scheduled for Sept. 28, 2024 in Memphis before the two teams square off a second time on Sept. 25, 2027 in Murfreesboro.

“We are very excited to add Middle Tennessee to our future schedules,” says Memphis head football coach Ryan Silverfield. “Anytime you have the opportunity to play an in-state opponent, it makes sense from a recruiting and logistical standpoint. MTSU has a great tradition and we look forward to playing them in years to come.”

The two teams have played 27 times since their very first meeting in 1925 with the Blue Raiders owning a 17-9-1 advantage. The Blue Raiders and Tigers last met during a six-year stretch from 2009 until 2014 with three games in Murfreesboro and three in Memphis.

MTSU finished its 2021 season 7-6 overall and 4-4 in conference with a home record of 4-1. They kickoff the 2022 season on Sept. 3 at James Madison University and at Colorado State on Sept. 10 before returning home to face TSU on Sept. 17.

 

 

Vanderbilt To Face St. Mary’s In The Paycom Wooden Legacy Tournament

Photo: Courtesy of Vanderbilt Athletics

Vanderbilt men’s basketball is set to play mid-major powerhouse St. Mary’s at the The Paycom Wooden Legacy in November.

The event, which will be held at the Anaheim Convention Center Arena in California, will begin Nov. 23 with Washington taking on Fresno State before the Commodores battle the 2021 WCC runner-ups on ESPN2. 

The Nov. 24 schedule includes the third-place game on ESPNU followed by the championship game on ESPN2.

In 2021-22, Vandy had one of its best seasons in a number of years behind coach Jerry Stackhouse. They finished the season 19-17, picking up two wins in the SEC Tournament against Georgia and Alabama. They went on to run in the NIT beating Belmont and Dayton before falling to the eventual champions Xavier in the tournament’s quarterfinal.

Tennessee State Picked To Finish Fourth In The OVC Ahead Of 2022 Football Season

Courtesy of TSU

The Tennessee State Tigers football team were voted to finish fourth in the upcoming OVC season by the league’s head coaches and communications directors. TSU received 46 points and one first-place vote in the poll.

The Tigers are welcoming back former Heisman Trophy winner and Titans legend Eddie George for his second year as head coach. TSU finished the season with an overall record of 5-6 and a conference record of 3-3

This year, TSU welcomes new quarterback Draylen Ellis, who transferred from Austin Peay. Ellis was named OVC Co-Freshman of the Year in 2020 and last season was a second-team All-OVC pick after passing for 2,626 yards and 19 touchdowns.

Ellis will be teamed with third-year running back Devon Starling, who shared those Freshman of the Year accolades with Ellis in 2020. A year ago, he was named All-OVC and earned Sophomore All-American honors after rushing for 800 yards.

In 2021, the Tigers were efficient offensively, throwing only six interceptions in 11 games, which led the OVC and ranked 17th nationally Defensively, the Tigers placed three players on the Preseason All-OVC team, in Tadarrius Patterson (30 tackles, 5.5 sacks), Teray Jones (15 tackles, 3.5 sacks) and James Green (77 tackles, 1 interception).

Ellis, Starling, Jones, Green, and Patterson, along with wide receiver Zaire Thornton, offensive lineman Robert Lacey and kick returner Dayron Johnson, were named to the 2022 Preseason All-OVC Football Teams.

UT Martin has been picked as the preseason favorites, coming off their 2021 OVC Championship and their first FCS Playoff victory. The Skyhawks picked up 10 of a possible 14 first-place votes.

In addition to the League schedule, OVC schools will collaborate with the Southland Conference in a non-conference scheduling alliance for 2022 and 2023. Beginning in 2023, the OVC and Big South Conference begin an agreement to create an association between its football member institutions. The unique agreement combines the two conferences’ football membership to ensure NCAA championship access and stability, and will provide the institutions a schedule of games against all the teams in their multi-sport conference and additional games against schools from the other conference.

Vanderbilt’s Kumar Rocker & Spencer Jones Selected In 2022 MLB Draft

Kumar Rocker. Photo: Courtesy of Vanderbilt Athletics

For the second straight year a Vanderbilt superstar has been taken within the top five in the MLB Draft as Kumar Rocker was selected No. 3 overall by the Texas Rangers.

Rocker was selected No. 11 overall in the 2021 Draft by the New York Mets but was released due to health concerns raised by the Mets organization. He spent this past year training and playing with independent league team the Tri-City Valley Cats.

With the Valley Cats, Rocker had an ERA of 1.35 with 32 strikeouts and four walks in 20 innings pitched. At Vanderbilt, he had a 2.89 ERA in 42 games. He struck out 321 batters and had a WHIP of 1.001, according to Baseball Reference.

The former Commodore ace will be reunited with former teammate Jack Leiter who was drafted 2021 MLB Draft with the No. 2 overall pick.

Also drafted was 2022 Vandy star Spencer Jones who was selected by the New York Yankees with the No. 25 overall pick. He is now the 21st Vanderbilt player to be drafted under head coach Tim Corbin.

Jones was stellar for the Commodores in 2022, sporting a batting average of .370, fifth in the SEC. He also posted a team high .460 on-base percentage, placing seventh in the conference. An All-SEC second team honoree, Jones registered 21 multiple-hit games across the 2022 season. 

Rounds 1 and 2 of the MLB Draft concluded on Sunday evening and Rounds 3-10 will resume today (July 18).

Former Belmont Star Evan Bradds Joins Utah Jazz As Assistant Coach

Evan Bradds. Photo: Courtesy of the Boston Celtics

Former Belmont men’s basketball superstar Evan Bradds has been hired by the Utah Jazz as an assistant coach.

A two-time Ohio Valley Conference Player of the Year, Bradds had been with the Boston Celtics organization since 2017, beginning as an assistant coach with Boston’s NBA G League affiliate, the Maine Red Claws, before quickly earning a role on the NBA coaching staff.

As head coach Brad Stevens transitioned to the Celtics front office in 2021, Bradds was elevated to player enhancement coach under new coach Ime Udoka. From video analysis and specialized player skill development, Bradds contributed to the ascension of several Boston frontcourt players, most notably Grant Williams and Robert Williams.

The Jamestown, Ohio native worked with newly-named Jazz head coach Will Hardy this past season in Boston as the Celtics represented the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals.

Bradds is Belmont’s NCAA Division I era career scoring leader with 1,921 points, and he ranks sixth all-time in NCAA Division I career field goal percentage (.667).