MSU football gets $12M gift from Seal family

By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal

STARKVILLE – The next big thing for Mississippi State football is getting a familiar helping hand.
The school announced Wednesday that the Seal Family Foundation is making a $12 million donation to go toward the construction of a new football-only complex, which will ultimately cost between $20-25 million.
“As a football team we’re trying to go this season from good to great. As a program, as a whole, we’re trying to go from good to great. This will allow us to do that,” said head coach Dan Mullen, who in two seasons at the helm has led MSU to a 14-11 record, including a 9-4 mark and Gator Bowl win last season.
MSU athletics director Scott Stricklin said about $17 million has already been committed to the project, and all of the money will come through private donations made to the Bulldog Club. The Seal family’s gift, the largest in MSU athletics history, is what has gotten the gears grinding.
Seal is a familiar name on the MSU campus. Twin brothers Lee and Leo Seal are making this donation in honor of their father, Leo Seal Jr., who died in 2008. Seal Jr., a former MSU player and long-time donor, provided the lead funding for the Seal M-Club Building at Davis Wade Stadium – that building is named after Leo Seal Sr.
Stricklin said he has had good conversations with other potential donors, and once all the money is committed, the work will begin. Stricklin hopes that will be by the end of this year, and he said it should take 12-14 months to complete the 80,000-square foot facility.
“The sooner that it gets up, it helps us continue to move to that future we see for our football program, the athletic department as a whole and the university,” Mullen said.
The football staff currently works out of the Bryan Athletic Administration Building, so this move will open up space there for other sports to use.
The two-story complex, which will be named after Leo Seal Jr., will include a weight room, a locker room, a training room and coaches’ offices. It will be located on the land situated between the Palmeiro Center and the football practice fields.
Stricklin said the artist’s renderings provided Wednesday should be how the complex ultimately looks. MSU is working with architect HNTB of Kansas City and LPK of Meridian.
“We’ve been working on this, as Dan says, since he’s been here, but seriously sitting down for probably the last six months,” Stricklin said. “You always make some adjustments as you go through the final stages, but this is what we hope for it to look like when we get to the final stage.”
The Seals approached Stricklin near the end of last football season to let him know of their intentions, and after securing some more gifts, the eve of Super Bulldog Weekend was a good time to make the announcement.
Mullen had been talking about the need for such a complex for a while, and he thinks it will be a big help in recruiting and in promoting the family atmosphere he’s always pitching.
“I think this certainly helps us take that next step into being a consistent winner,” he said, “being a team that’s consistently playing in New Year’s Day bowl games, that consistently is ranked in the top 25 nationally, and hopefully in the near future consistently competes for SEC championships.”
Part of the estimated cost includes a makeover of the practice fields, although Stricklin said that could be pulled out as a separate project. At some point, MSU will have to seek approval from the Institutions for Higher Learning board for use of the land.

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