By JOEL COLEMAN
Scott Stricklin is trading in his cowbell for a gator chomp.
Mississippi State’s sixth-year athletic director was officially announced as the next athletic director at the University of Florida on Tuesday.
Stricklin leaves behind the school he graduated from in 1992 and became athletic director at in 2010.
“This was a very challenging decision for me to make the decision to leave a place that is my alma mater that is very important to me,” Stricklin said during his introductory press conference in Gainesville on Tuesday. “I’ve built a lot of relationships (at MSU) and have a lot of family connections.
“I get calls from time to time from search firm guys to see if I might have interest in other jobs. I never pursued any of those. I finally told one here recently that there may be two or three jobs in the country that I might be interested in leaving Mississippi State for and those jobs may never call, and that’s okay, because I’ve got a good deal. Then (the Florida) job came open and it really became obvious to me that there is really only one job that I’d leave Mississippi State for. That is to be a Florida Gator.”
Stricklin agreed to a six-year contract with Florida worth $1.076 million annually. He said he first had contact with Florida back in June after Florida’s outgoing athletic director, Jeremy Foley, announced his plans to retire. He’ll officially take over his new post at Florida around Nov. 1.
“We had some on and off conversations throughout the summer and it picked up somewhere in August and picked up some momentum there,” Stricklin said. “The reason for the timing is there were some factors at play. I had some factors. UF had some factors. Candidly, Florida was kind enough to work with Mississippi State on some factors that need to be kind of considered, which I really appreciate.
“Then, from about mid-August on, I had a chance to really kind of focus in and figure out if this was an opportunity that I was really willing to look into and pursue and obviously, I decided that it was.”
Stricklin’s departure from MSU leaves the Bulldogs searching for a new leader. Mississippi State President Mark Keenum announced in a university release on Tuesday that MSU will conduct a national search for a new athletic director and plans to move swiftly “to find an individual with the vision and leadership to meet high expectations for success at Mississippi State”.
Keenum also expressed support for all Stricklin did for MSU during his tenure.
“Over the past six years, Scott raised the profile of MSU athletics, improved facilities across the board and provided the resources for our student athletes to compete for championships,” Keenum said.
Whoever Keenum selects will become MSU’s 17th director of athletics. That individual will have large shoes to fill after the accomplishments of Stricklin during his time with the Bulldogs.
Stricklin oversaw unprecedented success at Mississippi State over the last six years. In his tenure, MSU invested nearly $140 million in facilities and saw the athletic department receive significant increases in Bulldog Club memberships and donations.
This past year, MSU achieved the highest-ever Learfield Director’s Cup finish for any school from the state of Mississippi while seeing the majority of its teams compete in postseason championship events. For his efforts last year, Stricklin was presented the Under Armour Athletics Director of the Year Award by the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics.
Now Stricklin takes those accolades and all the others from his 28-plus years of experience in college athletics to Florida.
The prestige of the Florida job was just too much for Stricklin to pass up. It wasn’t an easy decision to uproot his family, Stricklin said, but his faith helped him come to peace with what was best for him and his family.
“I think it’s the best job in college athletics,” Stricklin said of working at Florida. “I have an unbelievable family that supports my dreams and our faith is strong. We did a lot of praying over this. At the end of the day, I think this is where we were supposed to be. I think the door was opened to put us here and I’m excited about the opportunity.”