Jay Parry (Fin’80) got a healthy appreciation for sports from her father, who would shuttle her and her two older sisters around Del Mar, California, and beyond.
“He literally took us to every sporting event he could find in Southern California,” she said. “Sports were important growing up. He really opened us to all the possibilities.”
Decades later, the former banking executive would make her name in the same field, but this time off the playing surface — with the WNBA, the NBA and, now, the Super Bowl.
Parry currently serves as the public face of the group responsible for Super Bowl LVII in Arizona, and the rest of the world will be watching.
“What drives me is that I love putting together an all-star team and creating something that seems like it’s going to be a challenge, but ultimately we make it look easy,” said Parry, president and chief executive of the Arizona Super Bowl Host Committee, during a break in her schedule in Phoenix. “I get excited about that.”
This is the second time around for Parry, who helped lead the effort to host the NFL’s big game in Arizona in 2015. This time, the stakes are even higher.
Delayed by the global pandemic, her 20-person staff has had to move quickly to prepare for the multitude of tasks in the months leading up to the opening kick-off.
The fundraising goal to defray the cost of putting on the game is $50 million, roughly $20 million more than the last time the desert played host. Sponsorships need to be inked. Some 5,000 volunteers need to be recruited. A full calendar of events must be put together and executed.
“We have a great road map from 2015,” Parry said. “Now the challenge is how we elevate our game and set new records for the Super Bowl and Arizona — and create a really fun fan experience for everyone.
“Sports is business, and creating a business plan for how to host the best Super Bowl yet is the goal.”
The California transplant took her first formal steps into the business world at CU, arriving at the never-before-visited school looking for a change in scenery, and decided that finance and marketing would serve her well. Parry said she came away with a degree, lasting memories and lifelong friendships — and she fulfilled her father’s request that she take up skiing.
The lessons she learned at CU Boulder helped provide a foundation for a 17-year career at Bank of America, where she steadily rose through the ranks. She left as an executive vice president overseeing 10 states.
The challenge is how we elevate our game and set new records for the Super Bowl and Arizona — and create a really fun fan experience for everyone.
“I thought, ‘There’s a great big world out there,’ and I needed to make sure that I was experiencing different aspects of it,” she said. “It seemed like the time had come to make a move.”
Parry launched a second career in sports as a top executive with the Phoenix Mercury basketball team of the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA), landing the job through a connection at the bank. That led to a stint as a senior vice president with the Phoenix Suns. And another connection from the bank and others, along with her track record, helped land her the top job running the Super Bowl for the first time and again a second time last year. In between, she served for two years as the WNBA’s chief operating officer.
She’s worked in largely male-dominated organizations throughout her career, but she downplayed any suggestion that her gender served as an obstacle.
“It’s about knowing your business and being prepared,” Parry said. “I think there’s a lot of progress being made around bringing women into the conference room and the board room. We still have a lot of work to do.”
Parry said she has learned over the years that a formula for success in any organization is creating and encouraging a culture of inclusion, and having a highly qualified group of professionals who make it work.
As for the future, Parry is taking a “wait and see” approach, concentrating on her team and the months until the big game.
“We’re really focused on delivering a really great experience for Super Bowl LVII,” she said. “And then we’ll all take a step back, take a breath and decide what comes next.”
Photo courtesy Arizona Super Bowl Host Committee