Former Casper College rodeo coach Tom Parker was honored Wednesday as the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association Coach of the Year during a ceremony before the start of the College National Finals Rodeo.
Parker, 69, died March 14 after a months-long battle with liver cancer.
He coached the Thunderbirds men’s and women’s teams for nearly 27 years, taking over the program in 1990 when he was hired by former Casper College Athletics Director Bill Landen.
He led the T-Birds’ women’s team to three CNFR appearances in the 1990s and the men’s team to five appearances, beginning with the 2011 team that won the Central Rocky Mountain Region.
“A lot of memories come flooding back when I think of Tom,” Landen told the Star-Tribune in March. “And that 2011 championship team is right up there at the top.”
The 2011 team, which finished seventh in the nation, marked the return to prominence of the men’s program under Parker. Following that season the T-Birds men’s team qualified for the CNFR four of the next five years.
This year’s men’s team finished sixth in the region but had three CNFR qualifiers in tie-down ropers Bryce Bott and Logan Brown and steer wrestler Jake Fulton. Lacey Camp qualified in barrel racing and breakaway roping for the women’s team.
In April, Parker was named the regional coach of the year, which qualified him to be nominated for the national award.
“I can’t think of anyone more deserving,” said Jhett Johnson, who took over for Parker after spending the past three-plus years as the team’s assistant coach.
During that time, Johnson said he and Parker developed more than a working relationship.
“I worked with Tom for three and a half years and I never thought, ‘Man, I’m tired of my boss,’” Johnson said in March. “We never had a bad day. We were more than a coach and an assistant coach, we were friends.”