ABILENE, Texas - McMurry University has announced that Brad Parris – longtime assistant coach for the McM track and field programs – has been promoted to head coach, effective immediately. Officially, Parris has had an association with the McMurry program dating back to 1995 when he began as a student…but in reality, it goes back much further than that.
When it comes to taking over the reins as the War Hawks’ head track and field coach, the French might very well say of Parris: “C’est votre destin” (translation: “This is your destiny”).
Long before enrolling at McMurry, Parris’ roots were well-entrenched. Both of his parents attended and graduated from McMurry and, as time passed, he regularly made the campus his childhood playground (as he puts it: “I was the little kid jumping around on the landing pads at the high jump and pole vault pits”). His mother – Dr. Pug Parris – has taught at McMurry for 36 years, currently serving as McM’s Director of Inter-Disciplinary Studies and the former chair of the kinesiology department. His father – Rickey – was a four-time NAIA national champion in the pole vault for the track team.
“When we looked over the pool of applicants for this position – and there were some very impressive résumés – Brad Parris’ name jetted to the top of the list,” McM Director of Athletics Sam Ferguson said. “And it was more than just the fact that he was already on staff. Through the application and interview process, Brad reinforced what anyone who has met him already knows: this is an insightful, caring, well-spoken and knowledgeable individual.
“His strong history with McMurry track and field, his familiarity with the city of Abilene, his work ethic as a proven recruiter and his belief in the importance of academics are all traits which will serve him well as our next head coach. He is the perfect fit with our NCAA Division III philosophy and the mission of McMurry University.”
As for his own athletic career, Brad Parris’ credentials are impeccable. He earned “bragging rights” at the family dinner table by winning five NCAA Division III national pole vault championships, besting his Dad by one, with three straight indoor titles from 1999-2001 and two outdoor championships in 1999 and 2000 He still holds McM’s pole vault records for both indoors (17’ 5 ¾’) and outdoors (17’ 9 ¼”) and ranks No. 4 outdoors and No. 6 indoors on the NCAA Division III all-time list.
In addition, he was named the regional athlete of the year in 1999, he was recognized as the top performer at the national indoor meet in 2000, and he was named the American Southwest Conference Male Athlete of the Year in 2000.
(Parris only competed for three seasons, as McMurry did not sponsor track and field as a sport during his first year in college).
Parris also set the bar high – no pun intended – in the classroom, earning three academic all-American honors and graduating with a 4.0 grade point average from McMurry. He was on the Dean’s List every semester of his collegiate career.
Upon graduating from McM, Parris began working as an assistant coach with the track program, while also concurrently teaching for the Anson ISD (2001-03) and Merkel ISD (2003-04). In 2004, Parris was hired as a full-time assistant coach for McMurry’s track and field teams and held that position until his elevation to head coach to replace legendary Barbara Crousen (who retired last May after 16 seasons at the McM helm).
As Crousen’s right-hand man for McMurry’s storied program, Parris has coached a total of three national champions (two pole vaulters and one high jumper), 16 vertical jumps All-Americans and 21 vertical jumps academic all-conference selections during his tenure. His work was an integral part of McMurry’s NCAA III men’s outdoor national championship teams of 2008 and 2012…still the only NCAA team titles in school history.
“I have no doubt that my skill set is exactly what McMurry University track and field needs as we make our transition to the familiar grounds of NCAA Division III,” Parris said. “I have literally crawled, walked, ran, vaulted, taught and assisted on this campus. Now it’s time to be a head coach and complete the journey.
“I am McMurry Track…and I couldn’t be happier.”
Parris earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Multidisciplinary Studies, with a concentration in Biology, from McMurry (2001). He earned his master’s degree in Sports Management from Hardin-Simmons University (2011). Parris was a 1995 graduate of Abilene High School.
Parris is married (Ann) and is the father of twin boys – Braxton and Brody. The family resides in Abilene.