A former Eagle athlete, Bob Parks returned to Eastern Michigan University in 1967 to become the men’s head track and cross country coach. Thirty-four years, hundreds of athletes, and thousands of practice hours later, Parks’s retired after having established a tradition of success within the Eagle cross country and track & field programs.
Parks was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and grew up in Howell, Michigan. At Howell High School, he played football, basketball, baseball, and track, and was the Michigan High School Class B State Champion in the 440 yard dash.
He was a three-time letterwinner in track at Eastern Michigan (then Michigan Normal College),who won the 1951 IIAC 880 yard run and was a member of the mile relay team that held the school record for 14 years.
He coached nine years of high school in Michigan before becoming assistant coach at Western Michigan in 1961. In 1967, Parks accepted the position of head men’s track & field and cross country coach at Eastern Michigan.
With Parks’s guidance, his EMU teams won a total of 31 Mid-American Conference (MAC) titles. He was named MAC Coach of the year 22 times. His teams won six NAIA and NCAA team titles, and he was named NCAA National Coach of the Year once and regional Coach of the Year nine times.
Throughout his career at EMU, he has coached eight athletes who have completed in 13 Olympic Games. In fact, he has coached an athlete in every Olympic Games from 1960 to 2004. These athletes include such track & field greats as Hasely Crawford, winner of the 1976 Olympic Gold Medal in the 100m; Earl Jones, winner of the 1984 Olympic Bronze Medal in the 800m; and Clement Chukwu, winner of the Silver Medal as part of a 4x400m relay team in the 2000 Games.
Parks has coached 286 MAC and CCC conference champions and 31 NAIA and NCAA national champions, and his dual meet record stands at 162-14-1. He has coached more than 110 All Americans; many when only three honored per event.
Parks is honored in the Eastern Michigan University Athletics and Drake Relays Halls of Fame, and EMU’s indoor and outdoor tracks are named in his honor. His daughter, Sue Parks, is the women’s head track & field coach at EMU.