MSU athletics director Stricklin: ‘This year was another step’

By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal

Mississippi State athletics director Scott Stricklin spoke with the Daily Journal on Tuesday, mostly about football. The Bulldogs are 8-4 heading into the Jan. 1 Gator Bowl against Northwestern.

The full Q&A with Stricklin.

Daily Journal: How would you put this football season in the larger context of what you’re trying to accomplish?
Scott Stricklin: We talk a lot in terms of winning consistently. The key to building a program that can compete for championships is to develop a positive consistency. This year was another step in that direction. Third straight bowl game. We’ve won 24 games the last three years going into the bowl game. You’re developing a level of consistency there that we’ve not experienced a lot in our history. It’s been a successful year any time you can finish the year in a bowl game. We didn’t accomplish all of our goals, but we took some important steps again this year.

Q: Do you feel even with the tough finish (four losses in five games), the fans remain excited about where the program is headed?
A: I think they do. Any time you hit a rough patch – and we certainly did – especially the level of competition beginning in October, it makes it hard. Nothing creates positive feelings like wins do, and nothing makes things more challenging than losses do. Certainly the losses at the end probably tamped down some of the enthusiasm, but I think people still see the big picture. They still see the progress that’s been made on the field, in the stands, facility-wise.
And then again, just stepping back and doing it over a period of time in a way that allows you to build a program that does have expectations. When you have expectations, sometimes they’re met and sometimes they’re not, but you’ve got to always make sure you maintain expectations. We’re going to have the same expectations next year.

Q: Winning the Egg Bowl in 2009 sent you into the offseason with great momentum. Could losing it this year have the opposite effect?
A: It’s different. It’s not something we’ve experienced in a while. It’s been an even longer period of time since we lost the Egg Bowl but still went to a bowl game. Jan. 1 gives us an opportunity, with a positive outcome in the Gator Bowl, to get some momentum going into the offseason. It is important to get a win going into the offseason. We’ve been fortunate enough, every year Dan (Mullen)’s been here we’ve won the last game going into the offseason. We have an opportunity to do that again in the Gator Bowl.

Q: How are Gator Bowl ticket sales going?
A: We were approaching 9,000 last I saw, within the last day or so.

Q: Will you be talking about contracts with Mullen and/or any of his assistant coaches?
A: We haven’t really had any substantial conversations to this point.

Q: Where are you at with the expansion work on Davis Wade Stadium?
A: We’ve got the entire west concourse demolished. We have obviously gotten everything in the north end, not only do they have the ground prepared, but you see some supports coming up out of the ground. They’re on schedule; it’s still early. We’ve got a lot of dirt out there, so we need as dry a period of time as you could expect this time of year to keep us on schedule. It seems to be moving along fairly well, and you can drive by and see a lot of progress has been made.

Q: Is the football team still on track to move into the Leo Seal Jr. Complex in January?
A: Yeah, we’re actually moving some equipment in this week. Furniture will go in the next couple of weeks. We’re right on target, whenever they come back from the bowl game, that’s where they’ll be working at, the coaches and the players. Some of the coaches may actually be able to move some of their stuff over during the holidays if they desire. I’m not positive about that, but there’s a chance they can.

Q: Attendance at Davis-Wade was down slightly this season, but it’s still way up from what it was before Mullen arrived in 2009.
A: What’s really exciting, I don’t have the updated numbers, I know going into this season, 17 of the 20 largest crowds we’ve ever had at Mississippi State have been since Dan’s been our head coach. … It’s significant, and what’s really neat about it is that it’s not just when a big-name SEC school is coming to town, but it’s been a lot of big crowds for non-conference games, and even FCS opponents, where in the past that’s where you might see a lot of empty seats.
People are still filling the stadium, and they’re showing up because they enjoyed the experience of coming to game day, and they know they’re going to see a team that competes hard and plays well. That’s a credit to our players and our coaches, but most of all it’s a credit to our fans for supporting and making themselves such an important part of what we’re trying to get done.

Q: Any update on the NCAA’s investigation into potential recruiting irregularities by MSU?
A: I don’t have anything new there.

Q: What are your early impressions on new men’s basketball coach Rick Ray and the way his team is playing?
A: I love the effort, the intensity and the competitiveness. They’ve played with a lot of discipline.
brad.locke@journalinc.com