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Rick Byrd, storied head coach for Belmont University men's basketball team, to retire

The school will start a national search for his successor immediately.
Mar 20, 2013; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Belmont Bruins head coach Rick Byrd looks on during practice the day before the second round of the 2013 NCAA tournament at EnergySolutions Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Dykes-USA TODAY Sports

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — After 33 years as the head coach of Belmont University's men's basketball team, Knoxville native Rick Byrd has announced his retirement, a news release from the school said Monday.

It was one of "the most respected college basketball programs in America" under his leadership, the release said. His teams have received a number of accolades both on and off the court while he was in the position.

"For the past 33 years, it has been my privilege to work with, and for, a remarkable community of men and women at Belmont University," Byrd said in the release. "Throughout my tenure as men's basketball coach, our program has received great support from Belmont's administration, faculty, staff and students. For this, I am forever grateful."

Byrd noted the support of his family, friends and the team's fan-base in the release as, well as the men he has coached.

"It has been an honor to coach the young men that have brought credit to Belmont University, not only by how they played the game, but how they represented our university all over our country," he said.

Byrd was a 2019 Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame induction candidate and a Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame inductee, the release said. 

Byrd helped lead Belmont to national prominence in both NCAA Division I and NAIA, according to the release, taking the team to eight NCAA Tournaments in the last 14 years.

Belmont had many wins over notable teams from across the country during his tenure-- his 805 career victories rank 12th all-time among NCAA Division I head coaches.

The team was also one of only nine NCAA Division I programs to win 19 or more games each of the last 14 seasons, with the others being BYU, Duke, Gonzaga, Kansas, Louisville, Michigan State, North Carolina and San Diego State, the release said.

But more important than the wins to Byrd were the academic victories the team had, according to the release.

Since 2001, Belmont has had the most Academic All-America selections, with 17, including 2019. The team has had a GPA of 3.0 or higher for the past 18 years and is one of only three programs to rank among the nation's best every year since the Academic Progress Rate began, per the release.  

In 2012, the coach received the NCAA Bob Frederick award for his lifelong commitment to sportsmanship, ethical conduct and fair play, according to the release. 

Byrd graduated from Doyle High School in Knoxville and was an honors student at the University of Tennessee, where he majored in physical education for undergrad and graduate school. Byrd's grandfather was I.C. King.

The school will start a national search for his successor immediately.

"I want to personally thank Coach Byrd for all his contributions to Belmont University and our entire athletic program," Belmont University Director of Athletics Scott Corley said in the news release. "He has impacted countless people over his 33 years, far beyond his players and staff. We are all better off for having worked with him. Coach will leave a legacy at this university that will be hard to duplicate. I feel blessed to call him my coach, my colleague, and my friend. I wish him, and his wife Cheryl, nothing but happiness in retirement."