The University of Florida hired Scott Stricklin, who was formerly the athletic director at Southeastern Conference opponent Mississippi State University, for the same position in its athletic department on Nov. 1, 2016. The move to hire Stricklin was made to fill the void created by now-retired former Florida AD Jeremy Foley.
Stricklin has stepped into a role filled with high expectations but also high potential at the University of Florida. Here are five things that Florida fans should know about their school’s athletic department’s new head man:
1. Stricklin Completed a ‘Trade’ Between Florida and Mississippi State
When Florida and Stricklin agreed to terms on a contract, it completed a “trade” of prominent athletic department personnel between Florida and Mississippi State that had been seven years in the making.
In 2009, Mississippi State hired its current head football coach, Dan Mullen, away from Florida. Mullen served as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach under former Gators head coach Urban Meyer for four seasons before taking the head job in Starkville.
Stricklin wasn’t part of the Mullen hire, as Stricklin began his tenure as AD at Mississippi State in 2010, but it still seems fitting that some talent went back Florida’s way after losing Meyer’s protegé to the Bulldogs.
2. Stricklin’s Annual Salary has Nearly Tripled
Not only has this move taken Stricklin out of the SEC’s West division to the East, but it has made Stricklin’s lifestyle much more comfortable.
Michael Bonner of The Jackson Clarion-Ledger reports that the offer made to Stricklin contains a salary of at least $1 million, with the reported ceiling being at $1.4 million. Compared to his $500,000 salary at Mississippi State and accounting for the fact that there is no state income tax in Florida, it’s easy to understand why picking up and moving to the Sunshine State was a clear choice for Stricklin.
3. Stricklin Married Into Mississippi State Royalty
The 45-year-old Stricklin wasn’t the only one moving to the Gainesville area, however. Stricklin is married to the former Anne Howell, the youngest daughter of Bailey Howell. Bailey Howell is a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame, and played his collegiate years at Mississippi State. The couple has two daughters, Abby and Sophie.
Stricklin is a 1992 alumnus of Mississippi State. Between graduation and serving as the Bulldogs’ AD, he worked in various roles at Auburn, Baylor, Kentucky and Tulane. Stricklin is among the most active major college athletic directors on Twitter, a sign of his forward thinking that led to his success in the role in Starkville. Recently, he garnered further attention on Twitter by trolling his alma mater and former employer.
4. Stricklin was Historically Successful as the AD at Mississippi State
Stricklin has an impressive list of accomplishments from his six years as the Bulldog AD.
One of his most important accomplishments was the expansion and renovation of athletic facilities at Mississippi State. In 2012, Stricklin secured $7 million in private funding that enabled the university to add nearly 6,300 seats to Davis Wade Stadium, where the Bulldogs play their home football games.
Adding to Stricklin’s list of accomplishments is the fact that Mississippi State football sold out a record 31 consecutive games between Oct. 2009 and Sept. 2014. The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal reported that despite ending the streak, the recorded attendance for the game against the University of Alabama at Birmingham on Sept. 6, 2014, was actually the fifth-largest in school history. It could be said that the sellout streak was a victim of the expansion of Davis Wade.
The most high-profile coaching change in Stricklin’s tenure was his firing of men’s basketball coach Rick Ray in March 2015, then quickly replacing him with current head coach Ben Howland. Howland came to Starkville with 10 NCAA Tournament appearances including a run of three consecutive Final Four appearances and 18 NBA players on his résumé.
Stricklin also oversaw improvements in the academic performance of Bulldog athletes. The University states that student-athletes recorded a combined grade point average of 3.0 during the 2014-15 year, the highest in school history.
If Stricklin had remained in Starkville, he would have overseen the renovation of Dudy Noble Field into one of the premier college baseball sites in the nation, as well as further upgrades to Davis Wade Stadium and Humphrey Coliseum, where the Bulldog basketball teams play.
5. Florida Offered Stricklin the AD Job Twice
The accomplishments on Stricklin’s résumé and the urgency of the situation for Florida gave Stricklin some leverage in the negotiations. Reports state that it took a couple of offers, including an increased salary, to lure Stricklin away from Mississippi State.
Stricklin has navigated controversy as a member of the athletic staff at a major university before, making him qualified to handle similar situations at Florida. In 2003, he worked for Baylor University’s communications department amidst the murder of basketball player Patrick Dennehy by one of his teammates. This summer, he was part of the decision to allow freshman football player Jeffrey Simmons to play for the Bulldogs despite his arrest for assault in March.
Stricklin left Mississippi State with eight different teams ranked in the top 25, 11 teams reaching NCAA national tournaments and donations to The Bulldog Club at an all-time high. He was also named the Athletic Director of the Year by the National Association of College Directors of Athletics (NACDA) in 2016. That kind of performance doesn’t come cheap, and Stricklin has used his leverage to his advantage.
Finding a replacement for Foley soon also became more of an immediate concern for Florida as time passed. Not only was Foley’s retirement nearing, but Florida had just announced major plans for several athletic facilities upgrades valued at $100 million. Having an AD in place to lead the charge on fundraising was crucial for the Gators.
Considering how well Stricklin performed with the limited resources available at Mississippi State, there is reason for optimism for what Stricklin could accomplish with comparatively increased resources at Florida.
USA Today’s database of major college athletic department budgets shows that Florida’s ranks as the sixth-largest in the nation, compared to the 45th-largest at Mississippi State. If Stricklin can repeat his success with the Bulldogs on the larger scale that Florida has provided him, this hire looks like a win-win for both Florida and Stricklin.