Ambitious Stricklin takes over MSU

By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal

STARKVILLE – No idea seems too ambitious for Scott Stricklin.
And he’s got plenty of big ideas. Now, he gets a bigger say in their becoming a reality.
Stricklin was formally introduced as Mississippi State’s 15th athletics director on Friday, succeeding Greg Byrne. MSU’s associate AD for external affairs since July 2008, Stricklin beat out a field of several candidates from across the country and will now helm the athletic department he first worked for as an MSU student more than two decades ago.
One thing the Jackson native talked about Friday was expanding Davis Wade Stadium, which this past fall saw a record 376,544 fans enter its gates in Dan Mullen’s first year as coach.
“Twenty-five years ago, we had 30,000 seats in our football stadium. And this year we averaged almost 55,000 people 25 years later,” Stricklin said. “I think we need to start coming up with a vision right now of what 75,000 football seats might look like at Davis Wade Stadium.”
Pretty heady stuff, but that sort of vision is what sold MSU President Dr. Mark Keenum on Stricklin, whose official start date will probably be Monday.
“I wanted someone who had a lot of motivation, someone who’s going to lead this university’s athletic department to great heights,” Keenum said. “And I’m very confident that we have found the right person to do this.”
Keenum would not reveal details of Stricklin’s contract, although Stricklin says he knows how much his salary will be. Byrne made about $302,500 per year.

Making a plan
MSU is currently developing a master plan for all its facilities. A basketball practice facility is under construction, and a major upgrade to the track and field facility is under way.
Stricklin acknowledged the relative dearth of resources at MSU compared to other SEC schools, but as he told Keenum in his interview for the job, “We cannot let our budget define us as an institution.”
Stricklin also cited past accomplishments, like the football team reaching the 1998 SEC title game, the basketball squad reaching the 1996 Final Four, and the baseball team’s eight College World Series appearances.
“We’ve accomplished many things,” Stricklin said. “We want to do it more consistently.”
In Byrne, Stricklin replaces a man who in two-plus years made a name for himself with the hires of Mullen and baseball coach John Cohen. While the football team went 5-7 last year, MSU set a record for season ticket sales and ended the season with a 41-27 win over rival Ole Miss.
Membership in the Bulldog Club skyrocketed during Byrne’s tenure.
Byrne and Stricklin share many similarities, including a boundless energy, media savvy, and demanding expectations. Stricklin has plenty of experience, too, having worked in athletic departments at Kentucky (2003-08), Baylor (1999-2003), Tulane (1998-99) and Auburn (1993-98).
“He was real focused, and he just flat-out got stuff done,” said Heath Nielson, Baylor’s football sports information director. “And there’s some trait that he possesses that he can say the right thing and make right move and kind of grease the skids, and he can work people. And it was pretty evident that he was going places.”
That trait, whatever it is, makes Stricklin very personable. At Kentucky, he was an associate AD with an emphasis on media relations for the basketball team.
“Scott’s extremely talented,” Kentucky AD Mitch Barnhart said. “He possesses tremendous communication skills, an ability to relate to people, which will serve him well.”
Stricklin said he used his experiences at those other schools to prepare himself for this kind of job. In his time away from MSU, he said that “everything I picked up and everything I learned, I always looked at it through the prism of, how can I one day go back to Mississippi State and use this information, use this knowledge to better my school, to better my institution, my alma mater?”

Contact Brad Locke at 678-1571
or brad.locke@djournal.com.