College athletics is big business. It is an extremely fast moving industry. Universities caught sleeping behind the wheel wake up wondering what conference they are part of.
University presidents and athletic directors wield a mighty stick in the proceeding. Like in most businesses, forward thinking leadership can position a school for success.
Enter University of Tulsa Director of Athletics Ross Parmley.
Parmley became the interim AD when Lawrence "Bubba" Cunningham left for Tar Heel country on Oct. 14, 2011.
It was a Friday when Bubba exited stage left. Parmley went from overseeing events from the background to taking center stage.
"I went from making sure the Hall of Fame inductions was going on and working an event to actually speaking at the event that night," said Parmley. "That changed pretty quickly and right into a football game the next day with hosting people in the suite"
Three months pass and the university went into stealth mode. No information disseminated to the media other than the original press release indicating a search for a new athletic director would take place.
As Jan. 19 crept closer it became apparent the interim tag would be removed and Parmley was indeed the man.
"The great thing about the way it turned out was I did get to hit the ground running at the end of October or beginning of November once Bubba left," he said. "I had the months of November, December and some of January to get off to a start."
And now he faces decisions and dilemmas unprecedented at TU. Conference realignment hit Conference USA in full force. A merger with the Mountain West seems imminent. But is Parmley the right guy to lead TU into the new frontier? His background certainly has prepared him.
A native of Lawton, Okla., Parmley understands the landscape. He is also a huge sports fan having participated in his day.
He attended Lawton McArthur High School and played football, golf and wrestled. Sports were part of his life year-round as far back as he can remember.
His undergraduate degree came from Cameron University. He decided coaching was in his future when school wrapped up.
"I started out coaching and teaching in Ardmore," he said. "I was an assistant wrestling coach my first year. I moved into the head coach position after that. It got me started in this industry and this career."
His coaching experience is just one of the building blocks for his AD foundation.
Next stop? Norman Public Schools. He served as the athletic director for two and a half years. Another brick in the foundation.
In 2005 he faced a decision. Tulsa football coach Steve Kragthorpe offered him a football operations position on the TU staff.
"I didn't know much about what football operations was at the time," said Parmley. "I was told I was the administrator of the football team."
There was no interest in pursuing a football head coach position. Was the move from a prestigious, comfortable high school job worth leaving for a college chance?
"It was a good opportunity for me and seemed like a good fit. Looking back it was a great decision."
It was an extremely difficult decision at the time. He was young and AD for Norman Public Schools. It was a great job.
"I was not real sure," he said. "I was not 100 percent convinced it was the best move to come to TU until we sat down and thought about it a lot with my wife. We realized it was a chance worth taking and it was one of the better decisions I've ever made."
His relationship with coach Kragthorpe remains intact. "I think what he went though health wise this year and the way he has overcome it is a real testament to the type of person he is," said Parmley. "That is a lot to overcome with a wife in the situation and him in a situation and both with health concerns and to get though it the way they do is so impressive."
Add up his time in coaching, directing athletics in high school and stewardship under Cunningham and you get the feeling Parmley was the right choice.
"Obviously the magnitude and scale is much larger here," he said comparing it to his job as AD at Norman Public Schools. "It is still a people business and you win with good people and the relationship side of it. Being able to lead and set a vision for folks is very similar.
"I think the role with Bubba and experiencing the last five or so years with Bubba have been the icing on the cake for me personally. It has allowed me to not only gain great insight into college athletics but also as a different style of a leader and what he has brought to the table from his experiences."
His wife Heather made the commitment with him and they have not looked back since. The Parmley's have two children: Daughter Jordyn is 8 and son Blake is 4.
He tried preparing them for the day when the media may turn on him. Like most eight and four year olds, the deeper message may have been lost in translation.
Then again, if the school continues to flourish the critics may never turn on him.
A little insight to Ross Parmley:
Food -- Steak
Movie -- Caddyshack or Major League
Book -- John Grisham
Actor -- Robert De Niro
Actress -- Jennifer Aniston
Quote -- Proverbs 18:2 (Fools find no pleasure in understanding but delight in airing their own opinions).
Pro Sports Team -- Oklahoma City Thunder
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