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FGCU AD SEARCH: Parry Becomes First to Interview with Search Committee
ESTERO — Former Butler University athletic director John Parry, who led the Indianapolis program to Horizon League heights and national prominence, was the first to interview with Florida Gulf Coast University’s 10-person athletic director search committee.
Dressed in a dark suit, white shirt and red-striped tie, the 65-year-old Parry, the deputy commissioner for branch operations with the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles since 2006, spoke to the committee for 90 minutes on Tuesday afternoon.
Parry seemed right at home in the conference room of the FGCU President’s Suite, sometimes joking and steering the interview along. Parry, who is 6-foot-3 and 225 pounds, said he has wanted to get back into athletics since leaving Butler. Parry, the father of two teenagers and the husband of Candice, whose parents live in Bonita Springs, said he has really missed athletics and — unlike other opportunities — this is a move his family would be happy to make.
“People are incredibly passionate about license plates, but it didn’t quite move me the same way,” said Parry of his current job.
While at Butler from 1990-2006, Parry led the Bulldogs to the Horizon League All-Sports trophy in 1997, 1998, 1999 and 2002. During Parry’s watch, Butler added women’s soccer, men’s lacrosse and women’s golf. In his tenure, the men’s basketball team earned five NCAA tournament appearances while the women’s team made one. The men played in five National Invitation Tournaments, and the women earned two WNIT berths. Butler fielded 21 varsity teams, and Parry oversaw a $10 million operating budget.
Prior to Butler, Parry was athletic director at Brown University for 11 years after serving as the school’s assistant AD for four.
Parry, who said he “can’t sit still” and hopes to do the job for five to eight years, said the dynamics of FGCU are much different than Butler and Brown, largely because of climate. For instance, he said, “You can have many more baseball aspirations than you could in the Midwest.”
“This is a learning process. I don’t have a cookie-cutter approach.” He said he would not import a, “well, this is the way we did it at Butler” approach.
Parry said FGCU is in “strong shape” in this second of a four-year transition from Division II to Division I. He felt assured FGCU wants a strong and powerful leader as athletic director and said the facilities are top-notch. In the first 90 to 100 days he would not “make any drastic changes” in personnel or assignments until he got to know the athletics staff and coaches and how they work and think.
Parry said he would visit each Atlantic Sun Conference campus at least once to see how FGCU measures up. He would develop goals and objectives for himself, his coaches and staff and strive to “understand the culture of the university — not just the athletes. I want to know why people come here.”
The six current candidates survived the original pool of 172 applicants. The plan is to have the new AD in place by July 1.
The position opened after Carl McAloose, FGCU’s initial full-time director of the eighth-year sports programs, resigned effective Oct. 31 after the school settled a $3.4 million gender discrimination lawsuit filed by fired volleyball coach Jaye Flood and resigned women’s golf coach Holly Vaughn. Jo-Ann Nester took over McAloose’s duties and salary on Oct. 31 upon McAloose’s recommendation and Bradshaw’s request.
Parry said he thought it sounded like the lawsuit and problems before it came about from a lack of trust and communication. He said he had no gender equity issues at Butler or Brown.
Parry added, “I’m going to be disappointed if something came at me and I couldn’t address it. In other words, if the women’s coach came to me and said, ‘I don’t understand why we have to practice at 6 o’clock every morning,’ I would sit down with the two (basketball) coaches. And to me, that’s a no-brainer. The thing is, the coach should come to me and say, ‘I’ve got a problem’ as opposed to hiring a lawyer and initiating a suit.”
He also mentioned, while repeatedly complimenting McAloose, a perception of a lack of trust between the public and the FGCU athletic department, deserved or not, and the importance of bridging that gap.
There is a Butler-FGCU connection. The men’s basketball programs played the past three seasons — the last at Alico Arena — with Butler winning all three games.
“He’s very well-credentialed, obviously,” said FGCU men’s basketball coach Dave Balza, a member of the committee. “I think his Ivy League background shines through. He’s very bright, intelligent. I thought he did a great job of explaining that he’s not trying to bring Brown here or bring Butler here, he’s going to try to build FGCU, as he did at both places, but not necessarily in the same way. I thought that was impressive, and I thought that meant a lot to a lot of people.
“Having respect for a person you work for is huge and he would be an easy one to respect. If all six are like this, it’s going to make for a tough decision.”
Specifics discussed during Parry’s interview:
Fundraising. Parry is hands-on. Tuesday morning, he told Butch Perchan, FGCU’s associate AD for advancement, “If I’m here, I’m going to ask you to drive me out the door all the time.” He said it’s important for FGCU to cultivate alumni, and the only way to do that is to get current students more involved. He said “fundraising ought to be for extras.” Travel, salaries, equipment and other “basics ought to be provided by the university.” For overseas trips, fundraising would pay the way and those trips should be planned three years in advance. He said school and athletics fundraising “don’t have to be mutually exclusive,” and communication and planning well ahead are key. “I have no qualms with asking people for money because I believe in the product and what we’re doing,” he said.
Academics. Computing and calculating and ensuring eligibility are the “biggest challenges.” He wants coaches to talk to high school counselors about recruits. “Butler didn’t really have issues with (academics),” Parry said, “and I think the reason is we were selective with who we recruited.” He wants to give athletes all the necessary tools — including study halls — but the goal is to “graduate them” from those as soon as possible. He said it is important for the professors of athletes to be open to updates to the athletics department.
How to boost fan support. “That’s a lament every school has, including the ones in the Big Ten,” Parry said. He went back to alumni support and said he’s a big proponent of promotions and having as many games as possible aired on TV. “I don’t have any magic wand. … It takes a lot of work, a lot of success, a lot of winning and a lot of good times,” Parry said.
How to survive this economy. Again, planning ahead, especially on travel, including the recruiting trails, is important, Parry said. “I never felt at Butler we won because we outspent the competition,” Parry said. “I’ve always been known for being fairly creative with money — helping people make money go farther.”
Football. Parry laughed and called it, “The 800-pound elephant in the room.” Parry played and coached collegiately and said he understands the “passion for football” in Florida. “I understand football and I think it’s worthwhile to study,” Parry said. “But there are a lot of red flags, not the least of which is where to put the stadium.” He talked about smaller schools having to take “risks” on recruits and other underlying factors. “We sure better have everything looked at before that decision (to add football) is made,” he said.
On track. Parry said he believes FGCU should add more sports and seemed concerned that it presently has eight sports for women and only six for men, as well as the total of only 14. He suggested adding track and field for men and women to make FGCU more competitive in the A-Sun and also because those sports — along with football and basketball — provide the best opportunity to diversify staffs.
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Tuesday: John Parry, Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles
Wednesday: Robert Heller, (associate AD, Kent State)
Thursday: Michael Moore (AD, IUPUI)
Monday: James Blake (AD, Maine)
April 21: Kenneth Kavanaugh, (AD, Bradley)
April 23: Jo-Ann Nester, (interim AD, FGCU)
FGCU AD SEARCH: Parry becomes first to interview with search committee
By Dana Caldwell, The Naples Daily News (FL)