Down Belmont Boulevard and 12th Avenue, from Hillsboro Road to Wedgewood Avenue, the debate rages as fiercely as Yankees-Red Sox, Duke-North Carolina and Celtics-Lakers in other parts of the country.
Are you with Belmont or Lipscomb?
Meet the Crosbys, a family that has the unique perspective of sitting on both sides of this rivalry.
Mike Crosby ran cross country for Belmont from 1976-78. He was a team captain and competed with All-American Mark Dennis on the first Belmont cross country programs.
“My dad wanted me to go to Carson-Newman,” said Crosby. “He had a classmate who was faculty at Belmont and I really liked it. As a private, Baptist college it was a perfect fit.”
After graduating from Belmont, Mike married the former Jean Kelly. The couple had three daughters: Kelly, Katie and Karli. Kelly and Katie both attended school at the University of Tennessee.
Starring for Brentwood High School, Karli Crosby quickly made a name for herself in the Midstate area. A three-time All-Region selection that made the state finals with her high school (2008) and Brentwood 92 Premier club team (2009-10), Karli had a number of suitors vying for her collegiate services. One was her father’s alma mater.
Another was Lipscomb.
“Belmont was really one of the first schools to recruit me,” said Karli. “When I was a sophomore (in high school), I really thought that was where I would end up going to school.”
The family ties weren’t the only strong bonds Karli had with Belmont early in her recruitment.
“We know people from there,” echoed her dad. “We go to church with them. We know a lot of people in athletics. ”
Fate intervened on Karli’s way to the corner of Belmont and Bernard. A regime change and a focus on defense-oriented players within the women’s program led Belmont to cool their interest in the forward.
Enter the Bisons.
“In the summer of my junior year, coach (Jon) Ireland came to watch a tournament in Brentwood,” recalled Karli. “That was a Sunday, and by Tuesday I was taking a tour of campus. Two weeks later, I was pretty much ready to commit. You hear a phrase in recruiting all the time: when you know, you know. And I knew.”
Committing to play at a university, any university, is a big step in a teenager’s life. Committing to play for the archrival of your father’s alma mater could potentially be a nerve-wracking experience, but Karli was confident in her decision and that her parent’s would support it.
“I was nervous (about telling my dad),” Karli says now. “I’m not sure if it was because I had chosen a school or because I had chosen Lipscomb. It was the best decision I’ve ever made.”
Her parents were behind her completely.
“It was her choice entirely,” Mike said. “Her mother and I felt good about it, with her being close to home. Our family supports our kids and we have zero concerns about her being at Lipscomb.”
So I’m sure all the people you know around Belmont give you a hard time, right Karli?
“It is a little weird,” she says with a laugh. “Everyone knows I play for Lipscomb, so the “Battle of the Boulevard” week was a little strange. I’ve known Ms. Wiseman (Betty Wiseman, Belmont Associate Athletic Director and Senior Women’s Administrator) for most of my life; she was at the volleyball match the night before our game against Belmont and it felt strange to talk to her wearing one of the Lipscomb ‘Black Out’ shirts.”
“But for the most part, everyone I know that’s involved with Belmont was supportive of me. They know Lipscomb is a good school.”
While it’s not his alma mater, Mike Crosby is happy to be involved with the Lipscomb program through his daughter’s soccer career.
“We’re big fans of the program now,” Mike said. “It’s a family atmosphere. (Athletic Director) Phillip Hutcheson makes it a point to speak to me. Lipscomb has some of the nicest, most supportive people you can meet.”
His daughter wouldn’t have it any other way.
“Coming here was the best decision I’ve ever made,” Karli said. “The relationships with the coaches are great and I’ve never been part of a team that got along so well. It’s the best fit for me.”