Belmont University is honoring retired basketball coach Rick Byrd with the establishment of the Rick Byrd Character Formation and Leadership Program.
The new initiative will create curriculum around Byrd’s leadership, coaching, and character formation philosophies which can be embedded in both academic courses and co-curricular programming across the University. The Rick Byrd Character Award will annually recognize an individual in the community who exemplifies the leadership and character of Byrd.
“Rick Byrd embodies the kind of character we hope our students will emulate,” says Belmont President Dr. Greg Jones. “A consummate professional who achieved unparalleled success in his field, Coach Byrd’s impact extends far beyond athletics. His integrity, grace and humility—along with his dedicated and disciplined leadership approach—will provide a tremendous model for our students to explore as we develop programming that will guide them in their own character formation. His example also is exemplary for leaders in our community as well as more broadly in the world.”
Byrd, who was recently inducted in the College Basketball Hall of Fame, tallied 805 wins in his over 33-year career at Belmont before his retirement in 2019. He led the Bruins from NAIA to NCAA Division I, growing the program to one of the most successful in the country. In his final season, he led Belmont to its first ever NCAA Tournament at-large bid and the program’s first ever NCAA Tournament win over Temple.
Along with the success Byrd brought on the court, he established a standard quo of academic excellence. Since 2001, Belmont men’s basketball leads the nation in Academic All-America selections with 18 and is the only program to rank among the nation’s best every year since the inception of the Academic Progress Rate (APR).
“Rick has previously noted how much he was influenced by his own father, a sports columnist, as well as the personal character and Christian commitment of another legendary coach, John Wooden,” shares Milton Johnson, retired Chairman/CEO of HCA Healthcare and current chair of Belmont’s Board of Trustees. “It’s exciting to me to imagine the future men and women who will note Rick Byrd as their influence in leading a life of integrity, kindness and excellence. Through these new initiatives, Belmont ensures Rick’s legacy and impact will endure as individuals across the university and in the community are inspired by his example.”
Vice President for Transformative Innovation, Character and Purpose Dr. Amy Crook; Associate Professor and Chair of Sport Administration Dr. Ted Peetz; and Assistant Professor of Management Dr. Paula Roberts will work with Byrd to develop the Character Formation and Leadership curriculum. Plans for the program’s implementation and for the inaugural Rick Byrd Character Award will be announced at a future date.