If you were to stop a passing stranger on the street and ask them to name three Cam Newton (@Morrisoncrying) character traits, they’d most certainly be:
- Defending Oliver Purnell’s honor and legacy against those who think he has been fired before.
- Being the world’s biggest fan of Rick Byrd.
- Watching any game called by Bill Walton.
So, if you saw the title of this piece and the name on the byline, I wouldn’t blame you for rolling your eyes and letting out an exasperated sigh at the thought of me publishing another Rick Byrd fan piece.
And, in many ways, you’d be right. In a piece ranking the best Ricks in the Ohio Valley Conference, how could I not include one of the game’s greatest coaches? All I’m saying is that a few of you might be surprised at how things will fall into place.
Regardless, I took the time to compile a list of the best Ricks in the OVC, and I’m including all Ricks affiliated with the conference both past and present. Even Ricks from teams that aren’t in the conference anymore are eligible to be ranked!
1. Ricky Minard (Morehead State)
Yes, that’s right. Rick Byrd is not number one in this ranking. Even I’m shocked. Going into this piece, I thought it was going to be a given that I’d put Rick up there, but after I did some more research, I realized that I simply could not put him above Morehead State legend Ricky Minard.
Just take a look at Minard’s accolades:
- OVC Player of the Year
- Freshman of the Year
- 3-time First Team All-OVC
- 4th-highest scorer in OVC history
- Highest scorer in Morehead State history
- OVC Player of the Week for basically every week for like a 4-year span
- Morehead State Athletics Hall-of-Famer
- 2nd round pick in the 2004 NBA Draft
He’s one of the conference’s most decorated players, and putting him anywhere but at the top would be a gross disservice to the best player in Morehead State history and one of the best players in OVC history.
In four years at Morehead State, Minard was able to rack up more awards than most college players will ever dream of possessing. He was a constant stand-out, star, and high point on a team whose history was all but written by him.
Oh, and he’s also still playing basketball professionally.
2. Rick Byrd (Belmont)
I’m sorry, coach. I’m so sorry. I thought you had it wrapped up. 750+ career wins, 2 OVC Tournament titles, 2 OVC Coach of the Year trophies, and 66 OVC wins. You run through conference opponents during the season, and you never fail to get the most out of your players, something you’ve done for 30 years in Nashville.
I thought you had it. But, as many other OVC men who have come before you, you were felled by Ricky Minard.
Honestly, he’s one of the few people in the OVC whose legacy is better than yours, and his name just happens to also be Rick. In any other ranking, I’d have you as number one. Still, number two is a fine and honorable place to be, Coach. Especially in a conference with a history and a pantheon of Ricks as massive and as rich as the OVC’s.
3. Ricky Hood (Murray State)
While the best OVC name is Rick, the best OVC players are named Ricky. Something about attaching that occasional vowel to the end of the name just makes players prone to dominating a regional Mid-South basketball conference.
In the early 1980’s, a time of living fast and doing things in excess, dominate is exactly what Ricky Hood did.
Despite spending only two seasons in Murray, Hood managed to make his mark on his team and conference. He worked his way onto the All-OVC First Team in both of his seasons, and he was a complete fiend in the post, epitomizing everything a big man should be. In a conference rife with Ricks, he continues to stand out.
4. Ricky Tunstall (Youngstown State)
Some of you who clearly nodded off and turned in perfunctory work in your mandatory OVC studies class in high school might be scratching your head and typing up hate tweets about how stupid I am for putting Youngstown State on an OVC list.
Well, stop typing that tweet and DO NOT save it to your drafts. I’m right.
From 1981-1988, Youngstown State was in the OVC. They must’ve made some sort of bet that they would remain in the conference only while Reagan was president and then leave as soon as he did, but who am I to say if that’s correct or not?
Anyway, while at Youngstown State, Tunstall was Anthony Davis-esque, blocking shots with a ferocity never-before-seen in the OVC. When he left Youngstown State, he was the most prolific shot-blocker in OVC history (he was passed up by Morehead State’s Bob McCann like right after that though), and he still holds the conference record for most blocks in a game (13) and most in a single season (138).
Oh, and in 1984 he was also drafted (good thing) by the New York Knicks (bad thing).
5. Rick Yudt (Austin Peay)
I must admit: I went back and forth for quite a while when it came to ranking Yudt and Tunstall. These two almost seemed interchangeable in their positions on this list, but the key difference maker for me is the fact that Yudt does not possess many records like Tunstall did and still does.
Like Ricky Hood, another star on this list, Rick Yudt only spent two years at his respective OVC institution. Transferring to Ohio State after the 1992-93 season, Yudt left behind a program at which he was named OVC Freshman of Year while also being named Freshman of the Week an insane amount.
6. Rick Samuels (Eastern Illinois)
For 25 years, Rick Samuels patrolled the sidelines at Eastern Illinois, coaching many greats from Henry Domercant to Kevin Duckworth to the number seven guy on this list.
In a tenure of such prodigious length, one is destined to encounter both rough and smooth years, and Samuels was faced with that reality. His career record ended at 360-360—resting exactly at the .500 mark—but he still managed to win multiple conference titles and make a few NCAA Tournament appearances with the team that employed him for a quarter century.
His firing in 2005 was a controversial one, but his legacy is anything but.
7. Rick Kaye (Eastern Illinois)
He might not be the best player in Eastern Illinois history, but he’s certainly up there. Leading the team in scoring for two seasons in the late 1990’s, Rick Kaye was an integral part of some Panthers teams that were never exceptional, but always adept at winning in the OVC (the program’s ‘97-’98 team went 16-11, but won 13 conference games that year).
In those years spent in Charleston, Kaye earned First Team All-OVC honors in 1998, and was a Second Team All-OVC player the year before.
8. Rick Campbell (Middle Tennessee)
Before heading to the Sun Belt, its brief home prior to nestling in the embrace of CUSA, the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders competed in the OVC for almost five decades.
During that time, they counted on Rick Campbell to be one of their best players. Named to the Second Team All-OVC in 1981 and 1982, Campbell was part of the 1982 MTSU team that pulled off a shocking tournament upset far before we ever became acquainted with Kermit Davis or Giddy Potts.
In the first round of that year’s NCAA Tournament, MTSU took on Kentucky, a 6 seed led by Joe B. Hall. The video below, courtesy of MTSU, tells the rest of the magnificent story:
MTSU vs Kentucky March 11, 1982
As we prepare for Blue Raider basketball to tipoff this Centennial year, let's relive what is arguably our biggest victory in MTSU's athletic history. It was MTSU's first win in the NCAA Tournament, many would say the biggest win for any sport in school history. Rick Campbell led the Blue Raiders with 19 points, while Jerry Beck added 14 points and 10 rebounds. Chris Harris, was MTSU's starting center. MTSU's upset spoiled a highly anticipated second-round matchup between Kentucky and Louisville.Posted by Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) on Friday, November 11, 2011
Rick Campbell made sure it was a game the Wildcats would never forget. Scoring 19 points en route to a 50-44 victory, Rick Campbell first etched his program’s place in NCAA Tournament lore roughly 34 years before the Blue Raiders would cement their spot as kings of the upset.
9. Rick Ray (SEMO)
The third coach on this list certainly isn’t as successful as Rick Byrd, but he has seen improvement in his two years in the OVC. Since becoming the head coach at SEMO following his firing at Mississippi State, Ray has not seen a winning season.
However, the Redhawks have steadily gotten better, tripling their win total from 2015 to 2016. If Ray can continue on this road, then he’s bound to be placed higher on these rankings in their next iteration.
10. Rick Cabrera (Austin Peay)
After coming to Tennessee Tech in 2012 to help out coach Steve Payne, Cabrera has emerged as a static force for good basketball at the school, proving himself to be a vital asset to the Golden Eagles.
As the school’s own athletic department put it:
He assisted in Tech's fantastic 2015-16 campaign as the Golden Eagles soared to a 19-12 overall record and 11-5 mark in Ohio Valley Conference play while returning to the postseason for the first time since the 2011-12 campaign with a bid in the inaugural Vegas 16 Tournament.
Known for his strong reputation as a recruiter and evaluator of talent, Cabrera served as head coach at Lackawanna for four years prior to his stint at UTC. He accumulated a record of 100-28, winning two region titles.
Now, Cabrera is busy as an assistant at another OVC school: Austin Peay. Given the time he has spent on the sidelines and the successful seasons he has been a part of, don’t be surprised if we see him get a head coaching job down the line.
There you have it: the official, definitive rankings of the best Ricks to ever call the Ohio Valley Conference home. If you believe I missed someone—which is likely—feel free to comment or yell at me on Twitter. If you think I misranked someone, don’t you dare call me out.
Although, throughout the entire process of writing this, there’s one thing I learned for sure, and it’s this: Name your kid Rick, Ricky, or some variation of the classic name we all know and love, and he will be an OVC legend.
I guarantee it.