Dr. Mark Keenum Speaks On Choice Of Stricklin

Q: When did you decide to offer Scott? "Last night. I had a meeting with our advisory committee last evening and then I had a chance to talk with him after the meeting. Driving back to my home from the meeting that's when I made the offer to him. And he accepted. And when I got home I heard about it on TV that night! It (the offer) was about nine o'clock and at ten o'clock it was on the news!"

Q: Can you say how many candidates you interviewed?
"I'll just say several."

Q: Given the internal hire, was this a true search?
"Oh, absolutely. I wanted it no other way. And I went into this very open-minded. I wanted to truly assess the field of candidates across the country. We looked at universities that are very comparable to Mississippi State University in size, in structure, in scope. And we had some wonderful candidates; senior associates that were ready to go to the AD level, several sitting ADs. But at the end of the day he was absolutely the best candidate, the best interview, had the best plan, the best vision for this University. And I feel very confident in my selection."

Q: Was his having worked here an advantage?
"Well clearly there is an advantage having the opportunity to be here. But I think that's a minimal advantage. Because you still have to have that vision, that plan, that direction that we need to move this University's athletic department forward. And he absolutely personifies that. He is everything that I was looking for level of energy, someone who is highly motivated, does have a plan, has a vision. And he was very articulate in outlining his plans for our athletic programs at Mississippi State. It gives me great confidence in his selection."

Q: Have you had a chance to talk to any coaches?
"I have spoken to two of the head coaches, I just haven't had the chance to speak to all of them yet. But the reaction has been very, very positive."

Q: What do you say to criticism of spending on a search firm?
"I think it's a great investment. I think you have to go out and find the talent pool, assess the talent pool. And I really had no clue of the caliber of individuals that were out there, the type of leaders that we could consider. I had no clue. So you have to take time to invest time, and energy, and resources to make sure we do a good job. I owe that to this University, to find the absolute best leader for our athletic programs. And I feel very confident that I've done that."

Q: How much did the firm cost?
"I don't have the details on that. I can tell you that the funds which were used for the search were through our private foundation."

Q: Does using an outside firm help clear up impressions of a simple promotion?
"Well, this was a genuine search. A very thorough search. And again, it was a good investment of my time and energy. It's not easy traveling and meeting with candidates and talking to them about all the things that we're looking for here at Mississippi State. But I feel very strongly and passionate about doing that. And I was very pleased about the talent of individuals, and their interest in Mississippi State…again, from coast-to-coast. It made me feel good about our institution."

Q: Was there any impact by Greg Byrne being so vocal and confident for Scott?
"Greg Byrne was very confident and very supportive of Scott's selection. They worked well together when they were at the University of Kentucky, the two years they've been here together working side-by-side helping create a new atmosphere of optimism and excitement at Mississippi State. He's been a part of that from the very beginning. Yeah, Greg was very supportive of this selection."

Q: How similar are Greg and Scott?
"I think there are a lot of similarities. They both have their unique strengths and capabilities but there are a lot of similarities. They're both visionaries, they're both strong leaders, their approach to leadership. And they have wonderful people skills. They get out among our fan base at ball games; they're wonderful at alumni events we have in-state and around the country. So there are a lot of similarities. And to be honest with you I'm very pleased with the direction of our athletic program, the foundation that Greg helped to establish. And I said all along I want to build on that success that we've got here and move forward."

Q: Have contract details been set?
"I actually was working with our University attorney today getting all the fine details worked out. We hope to have it resolved next week."

Q: When does Scott officially take over?
"I would say Monday, that's what we're shooting for, for him to show up Monday and be the athletic director."

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