Belmont University and head men’s basketball coach Rick Byrd have agreed to a five-year contract extension, Belmont Director of Athletics Mike Strickland announced today.
Byrd, who with 541 career victories is one of 15 active Division-I men’s basketball coaches with 500 or more career victories, was named 2008 Atlantic Sun Conference Coach of the Year. This past season, the Knoxville, Tenn. native directed the Bruins to an NCAA era-best 25 wins and a memorable near-upset of three-time national champion Duke in the NCAA Tournament.
Moreover, Byrd led Belmont to its third consecutive Atlantic Sun Championship – becoming the first program in league history in earn three straight bids to the NCAA Tournament.
The Bruins ended the season ranked 16th in the final Mid-Major Poll of 2008 on CollegeInsider.com.
On Mar. 12, Byrd was also selected as one of 10 finalists for the Skip Prosser Man of the Year award, given annually to a Division I head coach who best represents the high standards of the coaching profession: Winning with integrity.
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.
“Any and every success that our basketball program has enjoyed, credit must begin with Rick Byrd,” Strickland said. “Coach Byrd stands for all that is good in college athletics; challenging, teaching, and inspiring his players. This is an exciting time of growth and achievement for our program, and we could not imagine anyone else on the sidelines for Belmont.”
Byrd is the winningest active men’s basketball coach in the Atlantic Sun Conference and the state of Tennessee.
As per university policy, terms of the contract were not disclosed.