Belmont University head men’s basketball coach Rick Byrd has been named one of 10 finalists for the inaugural Skip Prosser Man of the Year award. The Skip Prosser Man of the Year Award will be given annually to a Division I head coach who best represents the high standards of the coaching profession: Winning with integrity. The award is named in memory of former Wake Forest head coach Skip Prosser who passed away suddenly on July 26, 2007.
The ten finalists were selected from a group of 20 semi-finalists compiled by the 21-member selection panel of coaches, administrators and basketball journalists. In addition to Byrd, the 10 finalists include Mike Brey (Notre Dame), Seth Greenberg (Virginia Tech), Frank Haith (Miami), Trent Johnson (Stanford), Bob McKillop (Davidson), Sean Miller (Xavier), Matt Painter (Purdue), Bo Ryan (Wisconsin) and Gary Waters (Cleveland State). Established by CollegeInsider.com and the Prosser family, the award will be presented at the 2008 Final Four in San Antonio.
Byrd, who with 541 career victories is one of 16 active Division-I men’s basketball coaches with 500 or more career victories, was named Atlantic Sun Conference Coach of the Year Mar. 4. This season, the Knoxville, Tenn. native directed the Bruins to their third consecutive Atlantic Sun Championship – becoming the first program in league history in earn three straight bids to the NCAA Tournament. A 2004 NAIA Hall of Fame inductee for his service in leading the Bruin program, Byrd also received the Dr. James Naismith National Sportsmanship Award in 1994.
But of even greater satisfaction to Byrd than his sparkling coaching record is the unparalleled academic success of his student-athletes. Since Belmont joined the Atlantic Sun Conference in 2001-02, Belmont Basketball has had 67 players earn Academic All-Conference honors – far and away the league standard. Moreover, each of the program’s three leading scorers of its NCAA era – Wes Burtner, Justin Hare, and Adam Mark – earned ESPN The Magazine Academic All-America honors and were named Atlantic Sun Conference Male Student-Athlete of the Year.
Skip Prosser posted a career record of 291-146 (.666) in 14 seasons as a head coach. At Wake Forest, Prosser’s teams averaged 21 wins per season while playing in arguably the nation’s most difficult league, the Atlantic Coast Conference. Prosser, whose record with the Demon Deacons was 126-68 (.649), won 100 games at an ACC school quicker than all but two coaches in the 54-year history of the conference.
Coach Prosser embraced Wake Forest’s academic standards and stressed performance in the classroom by his players. Every senior that he coached at Wake Forest earned his diploma in four years.