Nic Jacobsen, assistant track coach at Notre Dame, has followed the leader, Irish distance coach Sean Carlson, to Tennessee.

NCAA 10,000-meter champion Dylan Jacobs is transferring from Notre Dame to be a Volunteer.

Yaseen Abdalla, anchor leg on the NCAA champion distance medley relay team, is changing to a better shade of orange. He is moving from Texas to Tennessee.

Previously announced: NCAA 400 champ Randolph Ross will run for his dad, Duane, at Tennessee.

Stay tuned. More to come.


Knoxville’s Rick Byrd has again been honored for doing basketball the way it was meant to be.

Rick Byrd (from Belmont University sports)

The retired Belmont coach won another award. Byrd, Leonard Hamilton of Florida State, Val Ackerman, Big East Conference commissioner and organizer of the Women’s NBA, and Speedy Morris, former LaSalle coach, will receive Joe Lapchick Character Awards Sept. 16 at the New York Athletic Club.

Lapchick was New York through and through – born there, two segments as coach at St. John’s and one with the Knicks.

He was praised for his motivational coaching style, which focused less on mechanics and more on inspired performances from players. He was considered a great motivator (secret code for a wild man on the sidelines, stomping on his coat, smashing chairs and sending various objects aloft).

Show biz has been filtered out and winning words are carefully attached to the memorial award:  honesty, loyalty and moral principles; courage, commitment to excellence; inspiration for others.

Among previous “character” honorees are Pat Summitt, Dean Smith and C.M. Newton.

Byrd has a collection of awards and honors. He was inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame last November. In April, he received the John R. Wooden Award as a coaching legend. He is in the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame.

Belmont University established the Rick Byrd Character Formation and Leadership Program, a curriculum addition built around his philosophies.

In addition, the Rick Byrd Character Award will annually recognize an individual who exemplifies the leadership and character of the coach.

Byrd spent 33 years at Belmont. His Bruins won 713 games and 17 conference championships. They played in eight NCAA tournaments.

Belmont had notable victories over North Carolina, UCLA, Marquette, Cincinnati, Alabama, Georgia, Vanderbilt, Missouri, Stanford, Butler and Temple.

Prior to Belmont, Byrd won 92 games as coach at Lincoln Memorial University and Maryville College.

Byrd still considers himself fortunate to have grown up in Knoxville. He played biddy basketball at Lamar Street Center. He played Little League baseball at Mary Vestal Park. He played both at Doyle High. He graduated from the University of Tennessee.

“As a walk-on junior varsity basketball player, I practiced daily against the likes of Ernie Grunfeld, Bernard King, Mike Jackson and Rodney Woods. You learn a lot about the game watching great players on a daily basis.”

He says growing up the son of Journal sportswriter Ben Byrd was particularly significant.

“That meant access to sports events of all kinds and players and coaches was much greater than almost any kid could ever hope for.”

As an eight-year-old, Rick sold programs (for 25 cents each) at UT basketball games. Just before tipoff, he ran to the press table and sat under it at his father’s feet.

“I watched Danny Shultz, A.W. Davis, Ron Widby, Bill Justus, Jimmy England plus all the great players that came into Stokely Athletics Center. I not only got to watch a great coach (Ray Mears) from about 15 feet away, I watched Adolph Rupp and other great coaches on the other end.

“My father kept sports and their importance in proper perspective. He thought basketball is a game, and not life or death … I carried that philosophy even though my livelihood and my family’s well-being depended on the outcome of those games.”

Byrd’s career took him elsewhere “but 90 per cent or more of what I learned about athletics came from growing up in Knoxville and the wonderful people there.”


Readers continue to surprise me with comments about the recent Lindsey Nelson series. Interesting, indeed, was the reminder that John Ward received the inaugural Lindsey Nelson Broadcasting Award, presented annually since 1998 by the Knoxville Quarterback Club.

The punch line of that note was “Lindsey went away. John stayed.”

Indeed, Ward never missed a football game, more than 350 consecutive broadcasts, from 1968 to the national championship of 1998. He described basketball for 34 seasons.

He endured weekly coaching shows with Doug Dickey, Bill Battle, John Majors, Phillip Fulmer, Ray Mears, Cliff Wettig, Don DeVoe, Wade Houston, Kevin O’Neill and Jerry Green.

Ward was twice a graduate of UT – political science and law. He was president of his own advertising agency and TV production company in Knoxville.

He was Tennessee Sportscaster of the Year 28 times. In 1976, he was named the best college announcer in the country. I don’t know when he did wrong the other years.

In 1994, Ward and his wife, Barbara, gave a $2 million gift to the Tennessee athletics department.

Marvin West welcomes comments or questions from readers. His address is [email protected]