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Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2024

A Steady Hand Guides Indy Bowl


Missy Setters is executive director of the Independence Bowl.

Strong work ethic equals success

Everyone has a story.

Each edition, Tony Taglavore takes to lunch a local person – someone well-known, influential or successful – and asks, “What’s Your Story?”

It was just a couple of hours before kickoff – Missouri versus North Carolina in the 2011 Independence Bowl.

Excitement filled Hirsch Coliseum as Fan Fest was in full force. Folks from both Columbia and Tobacco Road were fired up and decked out in school colors. The two mascots – Truman the Tiger and Rameses – were in full gear, leading cheers.

But oh, that crazy Truman. “(He) was asked not to pick up the trophy. The mascot picked up the trophy and it slipped through his paws and shattered. It was a crystal trophy (valued in the thousands of dollars). It shattered.”

Did I mention the game was in two hours?

“How do you do a trophy presentation when you don’t have a trophy, or better yet, when you have a sliver of a crystal trophy on a wooden base to give the team?”

Fortunately, Missy Setters didn’t find out. The trophy’s sponsor – Lee Michaels Fine Jewelry – just happened to have something that looked similar sitting around.

“(It arrived) in the second quarter.” By then, ESPN had already captured video of the broken trophy. The Independence Bowl was in the national spotlight for something besides the game.

“It blew up on social media. It was crazy how much publicity we got.”

That’s just one of the many heartdropping, panic-striking, unexpected issues Missy, now in her 20th year (including an interim year) leading the annual event, has solved.

Missy told me that story, and her story, over lunch at a place of her choosing – Superior Bar & Grill.

Missy had two cheese enchiladas with queso Blanco, rice and beans. I had the mesquite grilled chicken salad. We visited just less than a month before Bowl Week – a stretch in which by the time the game ended, Missy had worked 35 straight days (with the exception of Thanksgiving Day).

“He (husband Ross) would tell you I get pretty intense and a little bit touchy.”

Missy’s role in sports administration was born out of her time working in LSU’s Sports Information Department, following four years as a member of the Tigers golf team. But one of her most challenging days came not on the course but in her boss’s office. While a student worker, Missy took a punch to the gut – and felt the pain.

There was a paid internship available, and Missy wanted it.

“(He) basically told me I was lazy and that he didn’t know if he was going to give it to me because he didn’t know if I deserved it. He said there were a lot of people trying to get this internship.”

Thirty-five years later, Missy calls it a defining moment.

“That changed everything.

I was like, ‘OK, I’m kind of bratty and expect things that maybe I don’t deserve.’ That kind of kicked me into gear – that I had to have a much better work ethic.”

By the way, Missy got the internship, which propelled her to a career in sports graphic design and media relations, and she has the position she has now.

While Missy’s work ethic improved following that conversation with her boss, it wasn’t like she was a slouch growing up. After moving to Shreveport from Lake Charles when Missy was 7 years old, the only child of Boyd and Sandra Parker took to competitive swimming. Missy practiced three days a week before school and six days a week in the afternoon.

“Swimming is an all-consuming sport, especially if it’s year-round and you’re training really hard. You learn you have to push yourself. Our coach was pretty intense, so he pushed us a lot. I think that was good. In hindsight, you look back on your life and the things that helped develop your work ethic. That was definitely one of them.”

But by the time Missy was going into high school (Southwood), she was burned out.

“I told my Dad I didn’t want to swim any more. He said, ‘OK, but you’re not going to just come home from school every day.’”

So, Missy, who had a little experience playing golf, switched sports. Not long after, it was obvious she was a lot better than a weekend hacker. In her junior year, Missy finished third in the State Junior Championship. Before long, her parents’ mailbox began filling up with letters of interest from schools such as Texas, Alabama, Mississippi State and LSU.

“When you get the realization that this could at least pay for part of my way through college, that’s pretty awesome.”

Missy signed with LSU and traveled the country for the next four years, playing tournaments, meeting people and making friends. But there was one tournament that served as a teaching moment. Missy was paired with Dottie Pepper at Furman University two of three rounds.

If you don’t know, this would be a good time to tell you that Dottie Pepper went on to play the LPGA Tour for 17 years and was a 17-time winner – including two major championships.

“She was very intense. For me, that was nerve-wracking to be paired up with her, but it was also good. . . . I had to learn to worry about myself and my own game, and not the person I was playing with, because she was so superior to everybody else.”

Pepper won both matches. “When it was over, I was like, ‘Thank God I survived that.’”

By the time Missy sank the last putt of her college career, she was ready to transition from competitive athletics to the working world. Missy “fell in love” with her sports information work, which turned into a six-and-a-half-year, full-time job.

But home came calling. The Canadian Football League was expanding into the United States, and lo and behold, there would be a team in Shreveport. Missy felt she needed to “branch out.”

But after a short time, the branch broke.

“I thought it was a good opportunity. Unfortunately, the league didn’t tell us, ‘Hey, we’re only going to do this for two years and shut it down.’”

However, Shreveport still had the Independence Bowl, and the game needed a media relations director. She worked in that role for nine years until being named the bowl’s interim executive director for a year. In 2006, the “interim” title was removed, and Missy became one of just two women to be the leader of a bowl game.

Looking for guidance in a male-dominated profession, Missy could have hit a brick wall. Instead, she found some of those males were happy to help her.

“I learned early there were some amazing men who were executive directors of other bowls whom I could talk to at any time. They were always going to answer the phone. They were always going to return a call. They were always going to be honest with me and helpful.”

That’s not to say Missy hasn’t had to sit across from an intimidating athletic director or head coach and prove herself.

“At first, I think I had probably a ‘You’re not going to bully me around’ attitude. For me personally, I think I learned that’s not the way to do it. I had someone tell me early on that you can either command respect or demand respect. If you command it, it will last. If you demand it, it’s for that split second.”

Missy has commanded respect for almost two decades. The proof is her continued relationships with the likes of legendary coaches Steve Spurrier, Frank Beamer and David Cutcliffe.

The day was moving along, and with the Independence Bowl just 26 days away, there was work to be done. So, I asked Missy my final question. As always, what is it about her life story that could influence others? Her answer focused on building relationships.

“You can have a lasting effect on somebody, either positively or incredibly negatively, by how you work with them, how you respond to them and how you co-exist with them. Do you want it to be fear and intimidation, or do you want it to be positive where everybody is built up? Going from Point A to Point B has been a total learning process. It still is and always will be. But I always remind myself that if you want everybody to be better, you have to treat them as if they’re better. You have to treat them with respect.”

With that, Missy and I parted ways. She has commanded my respect – not only for the work she does but for the person she is.


The 47th edition of the country’s 11th oldest bowl game – presented by Radiance Technologies – was played Saturday, Dec. 16. Texas Tech defeated California 34-14. The announced attendance was 33,071.

The week after the Independence Bowl, I asked Missy how things went.

“This was one of our best years, overall, in quite a while. We focused on the fan experience, including all the free events such as Rally on the Red and Fan Fest. The parade, Battle of the Bands and Taylor Swift Tribute Band were very well attended. People were having a great time, and that’s what we want to see. …We have other efforts we’ll continue to focus on in the future, but we feel like we made great strides this year and we want to continue that momentum.”

Missy and her staff took a short break but are already 0-33 looking ahead to the game’s 48th edition.

“We are throwing around ideas for this year and getting started on the (ticket and sponsorship) renewal process.”


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