NASHVILLE, Tenn. - - Belmont University Director of Athletics Scott Corley announced Thursday a series of initiatives to honor former men's basketball head coach Rick Byrd.
Firstly, Belmont is naming the playing surface at the Curb Event Center Rick Byrd Court, with a formal ceremony to precede the Feb. 15 men's basketball game vs. Jacksonville State as part of Belmont Homecoming 2020.
Additionally, in recognition of Byrd's vast contributions to the lives of student-athletes and the broader campus community, Belmont is establishing the Rick Byrd Endowed Scholarship.
"There are few individuals who have made a bigger impact for Belmont Athletics and Belmont University than Rick Byrd," Corley said. "The naming of the court and establishing a scholarship in his name is the appropriate way to honor his legacy. It gives me great satisfaction in knowing that the Curb Event Center court will forever bear his name as a reminder of the incredible impact he has made on the Belmont community. I hope everyone will come help us celebrate Coach Byrd, and this deserving honor, to cap off Homecoming Week."
As part of Belmont's We Believe campaign, all gifts and pledges made to the Rick Byrd Scholarship Endowment up to $1.5 million will be matched by the university through May 31, 2021. Contributions can be made at belmontbruins.com/coachbyrdscholarship.
"Rick Byrd's name on this court should inspire every Bruin who competes here to demonstrate integrity, character, and enthusiasm as they play," Belmont University President Dr. Bob Fisher said.
A 2019 Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame induction candidate and Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame inductee, Byrd led Belmont to national prominence in both NCAA Division I and NAIA.
Byrd's 805 career victories rank 12th all-time among NCAA Division I head coaches.
"I am very thankful to Belmont University for this recognition," Byrd said. "I truly wish we could put the names of all the players – the ones who earned the wins and championships – on the court, but I gratefully accept this honor on their behalf. I cannot overstate how meaningful this is to me and my family."
A 14-time district or conference coach of the year, Byrd's career conference winning percentage of .797 (447-114) ranked second in NCAA Division I upon retirement, behind only Mark Few of Gonzaga.
Five Belmont players earned Associated Press All-America recognition, most notably 2017 NBA Champion Ian Clark and 2019 NBA first-round draft choice Dylan Windler.
Under Byrd, Belmont established an unparalleled standard of academic achievement among NCAA Division I programs. Since 2001, Belmont leads the nation in Academic All-America selections (17) and is the only program to rank among the nation's best every year since inception of the Academic Progress Rate (APR).
Furthermore, in the NCAA Division I era, every Belmont player who completed eligibility under Byrd's watch earned his degree, and only two scholarship student-athletes transferred out the last 15 years.
Byrd received the 2012 NCAA Bob Frederick award for his lifelong commitment to sportsmanship, ethical conduct and fair play.
Fans are encouraged to send messages and well-wishes using the hashtags #RickByrdCourt and #CoachByrdScholarship on social media.
Belmont University men's basketball has earned postseason invitations 13 of the last 14 seasons, including eight berths to the NCAA Tournament. The Bruins have won 17 conference championships since 2006 - third-most nationally over that span (Gonzaga, Kansas). Belmont is one of only six NCAA Division I programs outside the Power 5 to post Top 100 RPIs nine consecutive seasons (BYU, Gonzaga, Saint Mary's (CA), San Diego State, Wichita State). Belmont is one of only nine NCAA Division I programs to win 19 or more games 14 consecutive seasons (BYU, Duke, Gonzaga, Kansas, Louisville, Michigan State, North Carolina, San Diego State). Belmont University men's basketball boasts an NCAA-leading 17 CoSIDA Academic All-America selections since 2001 and is the only NCAA Division I program to make the NCAA Academic Progress Rate (APR) Honor Roll every year of existence.