March 17, 2006
A Moment to Remember
By Amanda Wheeler
A contingent of Belmont University administration, students, staff, alumni and trustees boarded a plane to San Diego on Wednesday morning to cheer on their beloved Bruins in their first ever trip to the NCAA Basketball Championship Tournament. The trip may have been short-lived after Belmont's loss to No. 2 powerhouse UCLA, but no one is hanging his or her head for making the trip. Everyone was in agreement: win or lose, this experience was a stellar victory for Belmont's basketball program...
The festivities kicked off in San Diego Thursday morning before game time with a brunch and pep rally at the team's hotel to send the team off to Cox Arena at San Diego State University, the host site for Belmont's game. A rowdy and excited group of students, staff, trustees, players' families and alumni from Nashville and California gathered in anticipation.
The same question could be heard throughout the room: "Are you ready?" The answer was always the same: an enthusiastic, "YES!"
The team lined up and made their way through the cheering crowd, stopping to shake hands and hug their fans. The Belmont pep band led the charge, undeterred by the business meeting taking place in the next room. No one could stifle the growing excitement of the historic moment for the Belmont Bruins.
The moment was made sweeter by the memories being shared throughout the room by those who remembered Belmont's NAIA days and early, tough years as a Division I program.
Former Chairman of Belmont's Board of Trustees Larry Thrailkill made a quick phone call to former Belmont president, Bill Troutt, who spearheaded the Bruins' transition from NAIA to NCAA a short nine years ago.
"Bill, I'm in San Diego, and I just had to stop to say thank you for what you did to get us to this moment," Thrailkill said.
The Bruins fan base made their way to the arena by bus, trolley and any other available mode of transportation. No. 1 Bruin fan Vince Gill hopped on a bus with a group from Belmont not long after landing in San Diego to cheer on his friend Rick Byrd and the Bruins one more time.
They soon found out, as a sea of red-shirted, rally towel-wielding Bruins fans made their presence known as the team took the court. From the first minutes of warm-up, to the eight glorious minutes in the first half that Belmont lead to the final seconds of the game, the fans never shirked their duties: rarely sitting down, screaming mightily, even when it became evident this would not be Belmont's year for a Cinderella victory in the Big Dance.
As fans of UCLA and Belmont both filed out of the gym after the conclusion, UCLA fans were heard chanting Belmont's beloved chant: "B-E-L-M-O-N-T! Grrrr!" On the way back to the hotel, fans began asking each other, "Do we even remember UCLA's cheers?"
The answer was no.
The Bruins may not have won, but their moment in the national spotlight is one not to be forgotten soon by anyone in San Diego on March 16, 2006. Belmont had arrived.
This is not the end of the story. This is merely the beginning of the next great chapter at Belmont University.
Editor's note: Below this story is a series of diary entries from the last several days covering the Bruins' first trip to the NCAA tournament. It begins at the bottom with the story of Belmont defeating Lipscomb in the Atlantic-Sun Conference championship game, and as you scroll up from there you'll find a digital archive of words, images, and links to various news reports from local and national newspapers and even audio and video from both Belmont sources and the news media. We hope you enjoy it. If you would like to add your own words to this digital archive, you can post a note of greeting and thanks for the 2005-06 Belmont Bruins basketball team in the "comments" feature of this article, below.
Photos by Amanda Wheeler. Click to enlarge.HOME
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Belmont University's fast-growing community of about 4,300 students comes from nearly every state and more than 25 countries. Belmont is committed to premier teaching with a focus on success in the real world. Our purpose is to help students explore their passions and develop their talents to meet the world's needs. With more than 60 areas of study, eight master's degrees and two doctoral degrees, there is no limit to the ways Belmont University can expand an individual's horizon.
Hold your heads high guys. You made UCLA play their A game. You went to THE BIG DANCE!!!!!!!!!!
We're all very proud of you!!
Posted by: Angela Breedon at March 16, 2006 09:32 PM
From a UCLA Bruin to a Tenn. Bruin, Great game! Your cheerleaders are as cute as a button!
Posted by: Pete A. at March 16, 2006 10:22 PM
Congratulations on making it to the dance and never giving up in the UCLA game!!!
Posted by: at March 16, 2006 10:41 PM
Congratulations, Belmont! You greatness is only just beginning. You will be dancing again next year.
Posted by: David at March 17, 2006 12:18 AM
I know I speak for everyone when I say: We are so proud of you guys!!! This season was incredible! Congratulations on all of your accomplishments this season! We love ya!
Posted by: Claire Helring at March 17, 2006 12:31 AM
I'm a UCLA fan in Los Angeles and just wanted to congratulate everyone on a great season. Your team represented your school well.
Posted by: Paul at March 17, 2006 06:24 AM
Great job, guys....we're proud of you.
Jean & Richard Fallis in Macon, Georgia
Posted by: Jean & Richard Fallis at March 17, 2006 06:57 AM
Congratulations on a great season and making it to the Big Dance!!! People outside of Nashville finally know that UCLA is not the only Bruins team, and we are just as good! Keep up the good work, and go get em' next season!
Posted by: Jennifer Martinson at March 17, 2006 07:03 AM
Congrats guys on a great season! You represented Belmont and its values well by playing at the highest levels of Div I basketball. We're proud of you. The same goes for Coach Byrd, the cheerleaders, the pep band, and all the assistants and staff. I'm looking forward to next year already!
Posted by: Darrell Gwaltney at March 17, 2006 08:18 AM
You all are amazing, and we love you all! Congrats on making it to the big dance and you will always be number one!
Posted by: Vonne at March 17, 2006 10:04 AM
go belmont!! class of 2000 here.... can't believe we actually made it to the big dance!
Posted by: cheryl glenn at March 17, 2006 10:18 AM
I am a UCLA alum and San Diego resident. I hope that everybody from Belmont had a great time at the game, despite the outcome. Please come back to San Diego in the future!
Posted by: Kathy at March 17, 2006 10:38 AM
Hey Belmont! I'm a UCLA alum and I think you are the classiest bunch of people ever to grace the tournament. Your fans are great too.
I liked your webpage congratulating your team. I think you made great strides to get in the tourney, and you can build on this.
And, you actually had UCLA fans sweating it out for the first 10 minutes of the game. We wondered if it would be an upset. So great job!
Posted by: Pat Darcy at March 18, 2006 08:09 AM
I'm a current UCLA student, and I want to congratulate Belmont on your spectacular season! I think I speak for the entire UCLA family that we were proud to play you in the first round, and we're impressed by your unity and spirit.
Posted by: Alex at March 20, 2006 03:40 AM
Congrat on a GREAT season from a UCLA Bruins Fan.
You have a great group of Players and Fans...
We will see you again next year at the dance...
Posted by: Rob at March 20, 2006 01:36 PM
CONGRATULATIONS BELMONT, I ENJOYED EVERY MINUTE OF IT AND LOOK FORWARD TO NEXT SEASON. YOU DID A GREAT JOB.
Posted by: LORAINE MOMON at April 9, 2006 10:10 PM