Coaches aren’t always remembered for what they wear, but there are a few who stand out.
Bear Bryant has the fedora. Bill Belichick has the sleeveless hoodie.
But the sweater vest?
The sweater vest belongs to Rick Byrd.
Former Belmont basketball assistant coach Tom Robinson thinks the inspiration for the sweater vest ran in the Byrd family.
“I think that’s where he got to wearing them. His mom gave them to him, and I think he just kind of wore them out of respect for her,” said Robinson. “I don’t have any other friends who wear a sweater vest that I know of.”
Byrd’s various colored, perm-pressed and game-ready sweater vests left plenty of room for speculation.
Did he get so angry one game that he ripped the sleeves off a normal sweater and just kind of ran with it?
Did he find a closet full of them at a yard sale and decide they would be his choice of attire over his long and successful career?
“I have no idea where it started or how it evolved, but obviously it worked for him,” said Director of Athletics Scott Corley.
Whatever the origin may be, Rick Byrd undeniably embodies the V-neck, solid-color, no-sleeves sweater vest.
So how many does he have? Even Cheryl Byrd, his wife of 12 years, has no idea, or at least she’s not saying.
“I’ve had a lot of questions about, ‘Well, how many vests does he have? What colors does he like?’”
“It’s been interesting, but we love the vest,” she said. “We’re gonna keep the vest.”
Cheryl, not the coach, was known to pick out the game day pullover, said Amanze Egekeze, a 2018 Belmont basketball graduate, now playing in Japan.
Red, blue, black or striped, the sweater vest has left a lasting impression.
Even ESPN’s top baseball reporter Buster Olney, who covered Belmont basketball more than 20 years ago for the now defunct Nashville Banner, remembers what the vest meant to fans and the press back then.
“I can’t remember him in anything other than a sweater vest. Like, I’ve never seen him, that I can remember, coaching a game in a jacket and a tie. It’s always a sweater vest,” said Olney. “It was interesting to me in the recent years when I see them on the NCAA’s, or I catch them on television. I’m like, ‘Yep, still got the sweater.’”
Steve Cavendish, former editor of the Nashville Scene and the Belmont Vision, loves the national attention Byrd received for his attire.
“I’ve never seen someone make a sweater vest iconic before Rick Byrd,” he said.
“National outlets, when they talk about Byrd, they always mention the sweater vest. It’s such an iconic sort of thing,” he said. “It will be really weird to see a Belmont coach on the sideline not wearing a sweater vest.”
Belmont President Dr. Robert Fisher has one of his own, which he wears in honor of Byrd.
“One thing I regret is I won’t be able to legitimize wearing my vest again for a while ” said Fisher.
The man inside the sweater vest has resigned.
He coached the Bruins for 33 years.
The man inside the sweater vest is moving on to the next chapter of his life.
The legend of the sweater vest has been unravelled.