John E. Hoover: Tulsa's AD search must focus on direction
BY JOHN E. HOOVER World Sports Columnist
Wednesday, December 05, 2012
12/05/12 at 4:53 AM
Related Story: TU's athletic director is fired
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Tulsa needs to hire an athletic director.
Not a sporting goods salesman. Not a ticket manager. Not a football operations director. And not a retired football coach.
Ross Parmley was fired Tuesday after TU President Steadman Upham said he was misled about Parmley's involvement with a person being investigated by the FBI as an illegal gambler. Upham on Tuesday night sent out a letter to "the TU community" that said he was "saddened" by the events but added, "Ross admitted he had not been truthful in our 2011 conversation" about his role in the FBI's investigation.
Now, it falls to Upham and his trustees to do what they did seven years ago and hire an actual athletic director, a professionally trained expert in the administration of college sports.
TU's most successful AD over the past 20 years - Bubba Cunningham - came to Tulsa after four years as athletic director at Ball State. There, Cunningham had spearheaded a fundraising campaign that improved the stadium, grew the football program and strengthened the whole athletic department.
The same thing Cunningham did at Tulsa before leaving last fall for the AD post at the University of North Carolina.
TU faces a monumental decision in the weeks and months ahead as it identifies its next AD. Maybe history can be helpful.
Tulsa hit a jackpot when it hired Rick Dickson in 1988. The Bishop Kelley grad and former Tulsa Public Schools teacher and coach had a growing family and needed an income boost, so he got into the retail sporting goods business.
Eleven months later, after joining TU as an assistant AD, Dickson, at 34, was TU's athletic director. Although football - handcuffed by the lack of physical education-based majors - mostly declined during Dickson's tenure, he guided the program out of independence and onto the Western Athletic Conference's doorstep before leaving in 1994. Dickson, now at Tulane, also put TU basketball on a long-term upward track when he hired Tubby Smith in 1991.
When Dickson left for Washington State, TU eventually promoted one-time ticket manager Judy MacLeod. Like Dickson, MacLeod also caught lightning in a bottle by hiring Bill Self as basketball coach. She also was in the driver's seat when TU joined the WAC after 10 years as an independent, and she helped realize fundraising for and construction of the Reynolds Center, the school's long-overdue campus basketball facility. MacLeod's greatest legacy, though, might have been hiring football coach Steve Kragthorpe, who finally resurrected the football program after some 15 years of decay.
After MacLeod took a job with Conference USA, Cunningham arrived. When Kragthorpe left for Louisville, Cunningham hired Todd Graham and then Bill Blankenship. As those coaches sustained Kragthorpe's initial turnaround, Cunningham directed fundraising for renovating dilapidated Skelly Stadium into the shiny new Skelly Field at Chapman Stadium.
Parmley was AD at Norman Public Schools before Tulsa brought him in as football operations director, a near thankless job of hosting recruits, making hotel reservations and searching for future opponents. After he climbed the ladder at TU and replaced Cunningham last January, Parmley's key contribution in his 10 months as AD was to fire Doug Wojcik and hire Danny Manning.
Now, the NCAA is in town asking questions. A thorough investigation probably wouldn't exceed a few months if no wrongdoing or negligence is found. Likewise if there are no indications that the alleged gamblers had gotten their hooks into any student-athletes. Such tales are horrifying to the integrity of sport, but hardly rare.
The first step has been taken. Parmley is gone. Upham said TU has "subsequently launched our own internal investigation."
If the school hopes to avoid potentially serious sanctions, TU must show the NCAA it is wholly complicit and intends to apply any and all corrective measures both swiftly and decisively.
Contrition and cooperation are Tulsa's best devices now.
But when the school does move forward to find its next AD, it has to identify someone steeped in the current culture of conference realignment and the almighty television dollar.
Former TU head coach and Golden Hurricane quarterback Dave Rader has been suggested as a candidate. Rader, the former Rogers Roper and TU quarterback who compiled a 49-80-1 record as head coach from 1988-99, has his fans in the TU community, and that likely would lead to successful fundraising. His warm, friendly persona also would endear him to a new generation of TU fans. Rader's strength of character certainly would help repair any public relations damage done by FBI or NCAA investigations.
But the old coach model has grown obsolete. AD luminaries like Florida's Jeremy Foley, Oklahoma's Joe Castiglione and Texas' DeLoss Dodds show us that the business of college football is no longer about college football, but about business.
Coaching icons like Frank Broyles and Tom Osborne had wildly successful tenures as athletic directors, primarily with unprecedented fundraising achievements that led to premier facilities. Barry Alvarez has transitioned nicely from coach to AD.
But on no level is Tulsa's situation comparable to Arkansas, Wisconsin or Nebraska.
Upham and his board of trustees must hire someone - a business pro with a legal background, an expert in media and athletics, a polished CEO with an inviting handshake - who can navigate the treacherous path ahead. Conference USA is disintegrating. Membership in a different league seems like the answer. The next athletic director will be tasked with finding a secure future for TU athletics.
And it can't be someone eager for the next job. Tulsa can no longer afford to be a stepping stone.
The new AD must recognizing excellent coaching candidates. He or she also must be able to keep Tulsa's small base of big-money donors happy. A squeaky-clean background, of course, is paramount.
When the search begins, it will require patience and precision, but also urgency and celerity. These are trying times in college athletics.
Finding a true athletic director at the University of Tulsa has never been more meaningful.
ROSS PARMLEY TIMELINE
Key developments in the TU athletic department and gambling investigation.
1990: Earliest known time that Teddy Mitchell of Oklahoma City runs an illegal gambling business, according to an FBI affidavit. Over the next two decades, organizers make millions of dollars by hosting high-stakes poker games at Mitchell's home and by illegally taking bets on sporting events, the affidavit alleges.
November-December 2009: According to the affidavit, among checks issued to Mitchell's bank account is one for $1,782 from Ross Parmley, then associate athletic director for administration and operations at the University of Tulsa.
Nov. 2, 2010: Mitchell's wife, Julie Mitchell, is found beaten to death in their home. During the homicide investigation, evidence taken from the residence includes financial ledgers that show illegal gambling activity. Teddy Mitchell was out of town at the time of the homicide, and it remains unsolved.
October 2011: Ross Parmley is interviewed by the FBI about an Oklahoma City-area gambling ring.
Oct. 14, 2011: TU athletic director Bubba Cunningham resigns to take the same position at North Carolina, and Parmley is named TU's interim athletic director.
Jan. 19: TU President Steadman Upham introduces Parmley as permanent athletic director.
Sept. 24: Mitchell pleads not guilty to a federal indictment accusing him of running an illegal gambling business that made $8.1 million.
Nov. 27: Parmley is placed on paid administrative leave after The Oklahoman reports that an 84-page affidavit from the FBI identifies him as an "admitted gambler with Mitchell." TU Executive Vice President Kevan Buck is named acting athletic director.
Dec. 3: A TU source confirms that an NCAA investigator was in Tulsa.
Dec. 4: Parmley is fired.
April 9, 2013: Jury trials for Mitchell and the other defendants are scheduled to begin in federal court in Oklahoma City after being delayed from November.
- KELLY HINES, World Sports Writer
THE CHALLENGES FACING TULSA ATHLETICS
Running the University of Tulsa athletic department is a serious undertaking. Here is part of what the next athletic director at the school will face:
Because TU President Steadman Upham will not return from a trip until late this month, the university is not expected to launch its process of identifying athletic director candidates until January. These figures have been mentioned as possible candidates:
Dave Rader: A Tulsa native, Rader attended Will Rogers High School and played quarterback at TU during the '70s. He was the Golden Hurricane coach in 1988-99. Rader, 55, was Alabama's offensive coordinator in 2003-2006 and the Ole Miss offensive coordinator in 2010.
Steve Kragthorpe: The 47-year-old Kragthorpe currently coaches quarterbacks at LSU. He was TU's head football coach in 2003-06 and coached at Louisville in 2007-09. Kragthorpe owns a home in Tulsa.
J.C. Watts: A Eufaula native and former Oklahoma wishbone quarterback, the 55-year-old Watts is the father of current TU tailback Trey Watts. After playing pro football in Canada, he represented Oklahoma as a U.S. Congressman in 1995-2003. After leaving Congress, he established a lobbying-and-consulting firm.
Steve Largent: A former TU All-American wide receiver and a seven-time Pro Bowl selection with the Seattle Seahawks, Largent was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1995. In 1994-2002, the 58-year-old Largent represented Oklahoma as a U.S. Congressman. In 2002, he was defeated in his bid to become Oklahoma's governor.
Wren Baker: It is believed that the 34-year-old Valliant native may get involved in TU's process of identifying candidates. He has been the Northwest Missouri State University athletic director since 2010. Before that, he served as the Rogers State AD for five years. He worked in Oklahoma State's athletic department in 2001-05.
The University of Tulsa soon may be at the center of yet another wave of conference-realignment speculation.
It is believed the 10-team Mountain West Conference is considering the addition of two schools, and it's believed TU is viewed as an attractive commodity. A source close to the situation indicated the Mountain West also is examining the viability of UTEP and Rice, but that only one of those schools would be invited if expansion occurs.
A Western Athletic Conference member in 1996-2004, TU has been in Conference USA since 2005. The H.A. Chapman Stadium renovation, along with the development of new facilities and the sustained success of the Golden Hurricane football program, apparently captured the attention of Mountain West decision-makers.
When asked for a response to the Mountain West possibility, a TU spokesman replied, "The university won't enter into speculation regarding other conferences."
Current Mountain West members Boise State and San Diego State are scheduled for a 2013 transfer to the Big East, but published reports indicate both schools are considering staying in the Mountain West.
Mountain West members for the 2013 football season are UNLV, New Mexico, Nevada, Fresno State, Wyoming, Colorado State, Air Force, Utah State, San Jose State and Hawaii.
Original Print Headline: Search starts again
Staff: According to Tulsa's athletic website, the AD oversees approximately 128 employees.
Sports: TU sponsors eight men's and 10 women's sports, ranging from football to rowing.
Athletes: According to information from the U.S. Department of Education, Tulsa has more than 400 athletes participating in its 18 sports.
Budget: According to information from the U.S. Department of Education, Tulsa spent more than $31 million on athletics during the 2011-12 school year.
- BILL HAISTEN, World Sports Writer
Ross Parmley speaks to the media after he was named TU athletic director in January. Parmley was terminated after a court affidavit unsealed last week called him an "admitted gambler." TOM GILBERT / Tulsa World file