Rivalry with Covenant may diminish

13 years ago Triangle 0

by Emily McKeehan, staff writer

Junior Bryan Boling and Sophomore Justin Morton display their Lion pride at last years soccer game between the Bryan and Covenant.
Junior Bryan Boling and sophomore Justin Morton display their Lion pride at last years soccer game between the Bryan Lions and The Covenant Scots.

“Beat Covenant.” “Stomp the Scots.” “Imagine there’s no Covenant; it isn’t hard to do.”

Such common slogans that parade Bryan College’s rivalry with Covenant College (Lookout Mountain, Ga.) may become less common as the years progress.

Previously competing in NAIA Division I with Bryan, Covenant has moved its entire athletic program into NCAA Division III, as well as stepping out of the Appalachian Athletic Conference.

Joey Johnson, assistant men’s soccer coach, said that Covenant’s move out of Bryan’s division means no post-season game between the Lions and Scots. The Covenant game will only count for Bryan’s overall and national ranking and, of course, for bragging rights.

Head Men’s Soccer Coach Sandy Zensen said that with Covenant out of conference competition, Bryan will be competing against Milligan College (Elizabethtown, Tenn.), Reinhardt College (Alpharetta, Ga.), Union College (Jackson, Tenn.) and Montreat College (Montreat, N.C.) for the top rankings in the division.

Tami Smailek, director of athletics at Covenant, said that while the Bryan-Covenant game is still very important to those at Covenant, Covenant’s first scheduling priority will now have to be with the teams within their conference. She said that it is still too early to determine what effect, either positive or negative, the move will have on the Bryan-Covenant rivalry.

Zensen said, however, that because Covenant will not be Bryan’s main focus within the conference, there is sure to be a steady drop in the importance of the rivalry.

Johnson, though, said he holds out hope for the long-time rivalry, but he said that the future of the rivalry depends largely on the fans.

“I plan my schedule around the Covenant game,” senior Andrew Davis said.

Davis, a zealous Bryan Lions fan, said that he hopes the rivalry will last because it has been such a large part of his college experience.

This is the reason Zensen believes that after a few more classes graduate, the anti-Covenant fervor will lessen considerably.  When students no longer have the tradition of rivalry with Covenant, it will eventually die out.

Zensen said it’s a shame that such a rivalry should end because it has been great for both schools, and he still expects the next couple of years to be exciting.

Junior Kristen Phelps, also an enthusiastic Lions fan, has already noted a decline in the usual anti-Covenant fervor because no one has made a big deal about the absence of anti-Covenant T-shirts this year.  But she also said that it will be quite a while before it completely leaves.

“I think rivalries really exist within people,” Phelps said of the rivalry against Covenant.  It is because of this, she said, that she will continue to think of Covenant as Bryan’s rival long after she has graduated, and once Bryan has a different rival.

While there is still excitement about the Bryan versus Covenant game, there has also been some speculation as to who Bryan’s next big rival might be.

Though Davis said that Milligan or Tennessee Wesleyan College (Athens, Tenn.) are likely candidates, coach Zensen said that any one of the top four competitors in Bryan’s conference could be Bryan’s future rival.

Sophomore Jenny Harvey cheers the Lions on at Bryan's match against Covenant last year.
Sophomore Jenny Harvey cheers the Lions on at Bryan's match against Covenant last year.

While the rivalry lasts, though, Bryan Lion fans will wholeheartedly don their anti-Covenant T-shirts and cheer for the Lions to beat the Scots.

Zensen said that while he doesn’t know why Covenant switched divisions, it doesn’t matter because the move is certain to cause a drop in the rivalry.

Smailek said that the reason for the change was that the Covenant administration with the athletic department felt that NCAA Division III is a better fit for their school.  As Covenant makes this transition, she said, the question to ask is whether or not Bryan will choose to continue playing Covenant.

On the other hand, Zenson asserted the rivalry is sure to drop and this has happened before in Bryan’s previous rivalries with Lee University (Cleveland, Tenn.) and Tennessee Temple University (Chattanooga, Tenn.).

“It cycles,” Zensen said, “and I don’t know what’s next on the horizon.”