Gene Swindoll, Gene's Page

Florida, State Not Formally Confirming News Bulldog Athletic Director Has Accepted Offer

What was to be a nice quiet bye-week for Bulldogs got noisy fast Monday. Reports from Gainesville are Mississippi State athletic director Scott Stricklin will be announced Tuesday taking the same post at Florida.

Stricklin was not in his Bryan Building office Monday afternoon as of this filing. He has not responded to requests for comment, which is not unusual as Florida has not announced anything either. Mississippi State officials were not commenting on- or off-record as of 4:00 Monday.

Standard courtesy in the college game is for the hiring school to make the first public statement, all the more so in a cross-conference hiring. Stricklin will be taking the post held by legendary Gator athletic director and SEC power Jeremy Foley, who announced his retirement in spring and leaves the job officially October 1. Foley will still serve in an advisory capacity at Florida.

Reports surfaced a week ago that Stricklin was a leading candidate at Florida. Stricklin attended the Mississippi State victory over Massachusetts in Foxboro and was on the sideline in the fourth quarter as usual. There he declined to comment on-record about Florida speculations to the two MSU media corps members covering the game.

University administration put out a brief statement last week about awareness of this situation, and that Stricklin’s achievements merited interest from other schools.

According to internal sources Mississippi State’s administration has talked regularly with Stricklin about remaining in his current position, including increased salary.

Stricklin, 46, is a 1992 alumnus of Mississippi State. He came back to Starkville in 2008 as external affairs assistant to then-new athletic director Greg Byrne. When Byrne accepted Arizona’s offer to become athletic director in 2010, Stricklin was promoted by president Dr. Mark Keenum.

It has been an active six years for the athletic director. His highest-profile facilities achievements rank with anything done by predecessors. Foremost was completing the $75 million expansion and renovation of Davis Wade Stadium in summer 2014, a project set in motion by Byrne but brought to fruition by Stricklin and staff.

Stricklin is responsible for the $11.7 million Mize Pavilion at Humphrey Coliseum, and has been looking into renovations of the Hump as well. The brand-new Nusz Park for Bulldog softball, which was done in conjunction with a thorough overhaul of the Pitts Tennis Center, opened this past spring after a $6 million project.

Other sports benefitting from facilities upgrades and additions are track, golf, and soccer. But the next great project will be the replacement of Polk-Dement Stadium with a ground-up stadium. The price has jumped from the original estimate of $40 million in 2014, to now $55 million. Mississippi State continues raising private funds for part of the project and will borrow the rest, with ground to be broken in June 2017 per Stricklin.

As for coaching changes, Stricklin’s choice of Rick Ray to take over Bulldog basketball in 2012 did not work out. But fast action in March 2015 brought Ben Howland to Starkville, and after a first year to evaluate and recruit the program is back on the uptick. Stricklin was able to coax Vic Schaefer away from Texas A&M after a long assistant career to take over Lady Bulldog basketball and success has followed fast.

And while Byrne made the decisions, Stricklin was involved with the process which resulted in John Cohen’s return as baseball coach in June 2008; and Dan Mullen’s hiring as football coach in December 2008.

In the years since Cohen’s Diamond Dogs have rebuilt the program with five NCAA regional appearances, regional championships in 2011, ’13, and ’16; a super regional title in ’13 and runner-up finish in the College World Series; as well as the 2012 SEC Tournament title run and this past spring the first SEC regular season championship since 1989. When, ironically, Stricklin was the baseball media relations director as a MSU student.

The seven seasons under Mullen have produced a program-record six consecutive bowl appearances, a stay at #1 in both national polls in 2014, whole pages of game, season, and career statistical records, and a bunch of Bulldog draft choices spreading the program’s name in the NFL.

For all the above and more Stricklin was named the Under Armour Athletic Director of the Year in spring 2016.

Florida would be the fourth SEC program Stricklin has worked at, having served at Auburn and Kentucky around stints at Tulane and Baylor.

Stricklin is a Jackson native, a graduate of Jackson Prep, and is married to Anne Howell of Starkville with daughters Abby and Sophie.

With an open date, Bulldog football was to resume practicing Tuesday with Dan Mullen to meet with media afterwards. That would be the first opportunity for the football coach to comment, if indeed Florida does make such an announcement.

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