Thursday, September 22, 2016
Mississippi State University needed a new athletic director in 2010 after Greg Byrne left to take the position of vice president of athletics at the University of Arizona. He made a couple of homerun hires in head football coach Dan Mullen and head baseball coach John Cohen during his two years as the athletic director for the Bulldogs.
MSU's search ended with the selection of Scott Stricklin, who had deep ties to the university. Stricklin, a 1992 MSU graduate, worked with the university's media-relations office from 1990 to 1992 before he graduated and went on to work as the associate media relations director for Auburn University in the following year.
He worked at Auburn until 1998 when he left to become the assistant athletics director at Tulane University. While at Tulane, Stricklin served as the primary media contact for an athletic department that saw the football team finish the 1998 season with a 12-0 record.
He left Tulane to become the assistant athletic director for communications and marketing at Baylor University in 1999. He worked there until 2003, when he accepted a position as the associate athletic director for media relations for the University of Kentucky.
At Kentucky, Stricklin primarily worked with the day-to-day media relations for the men's basketball program. In 2008, he returned to Starkville to become the senior associate athletics director for external affairs.
Two years later, he became the head of the athletic program at MSU. Since then, the Bulldogs' athletic department has achieved a high level of success, both on the field and financially, with record-breaking fundraising numbers.
Nearly every athletic facility on campus has undergone an upgrade or will be upgraded in the near future. Some of those upgrades include an expansion to the Davis-Wade Stadium completed in 2014, renovations to the softball and tennis complexes completed earlier this year, and a soon-to-be-started upgrade to Dudy Noble Field.
On the field, the football team was ranked No. 1 in the country for five weeks during the 2014 season. The women's basketball program reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Nearly every sport at MSU has flourished under Stricklin, including women's golf, and track and field. MSU saw 11 sports reach postseason play and eight sports reach top 25 rankings during the 2014-2015 academic school year.
Stricklin is responsible for hiring women's basketball coach Vic Schaefer, softball coach Vann Stuedeman and volleyball coach David McFatrich. He has seen a few hires flop, though, such as former men's basketball coach Rick Ray, who the program replaced with current coach Ben Howland.
MSU student-athletes have gotten it done in the classroom under Stricklin, as well. The Bulldogs' men and women athletes posted a combined 3.0 GPA—the highest in school history—and all 16 sports exceeded the minimum requirements for the NCAA's Academic Progress Rate.
All the success in the MSU athletic program hasn't gone unnoticed. Under Armour named Stricklin, a Jackson native, the company's 2015-2016 Athletics Director of the Year.
But it is not just those organizations giving out awards that have noticed how well Stricklin has done at MSU. Multiple outlets have reported that Stricklin is the leading candidate to replace University of Florida Athletic Director Jeremy Foley, who is leaving the position on Oct. 1.
Florida is one of the few schools in the nation that can go full force after any coach or athletic director that it wants to hire. USA Today's database ranks Florida sixth in the nation and third in the SEC in athletic budget.
Florida has reportedly offered Stricklin $1.4 million to become the university's new athletic director, compared to the $500,000 a year that he makes at MSU. The Gators are prepared to nearly triple Stricklin's salary to get him to come to Gainesville.
Florida has a ton of money to throw around, but MSU may be a tough place for Stricklin to leave. Not only is he an alumnus working at his former school, but he is also married to Anne Stricklin nee Howell, the youngest daughter of Bulldogs basketball legend and MSU Hall of Fame player Bailey Howell.
Florida is one of the top jobs in the nation, but what MSU lacks in funds, it makes up for in being a part of Stricklin's past, present and possibly future.