By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
STARKVILLE – Scott Stricklin remembers when sellouts of Davis Wade Stadium were uncommon. Now, they’re expected.
Saturday night’s game against Tennessee marked the 20th consecutive sellout for MSU, and that as much as anything illustrates what fourth-year coach Dan Mullen has done with this program.
“I don’t know what context to put it in other than when I was in school 20 years ago, we may have sold out one or two games in four years,” Stricklin said. “And that was back when we had 40,000 seats. We have a different level of commitment from our fan base than we’ve ever had.”
Stricklin noted that selling all those tickets allowed MSU to move forward with some major facility projects, most notably the Leo Seal Football Complex – which is nearing completion – and expansion of Davis Wade.
Stricklin said that entering this season, 17 of the 20 biggest crowds here have come on Mullen’s watch. The trend has continued this season, with the first four home games drawing an average crowd of 56,053. Attendance on Saturday was a season-high 57,831, third-largest in Davis Wade history.
And it’s not just SEC games. MSU sold out games versus Jackson State and South Alabama this season, and part of that is due to marketing and creating a game day atmosphere fans want to experience over and over.
“Our fans have bought into that, they helped create it,” Stricklin said. “People invest a lot of money in these tailgates, they invest a lot of money in buying condos up here for the weekends.
“If they do that, they’re going to come up here and they’re not going to miss the game, because they’ve made an investment.”
MSU has about 1,000 tickets remaining for next weekend’s game against Middle Tennessee State.
Recruits look on
Several dozen high school prospects attended the game, including 10 or so of MSU’s 2013 verbal commitments.
Among them: Houston defensive end Chris Jones, Starkville athlete Gabe Myles and Gadsden City (Ala.) receiver B.J. Hammond, according to Paul Jones of Bulldawgs247.com.
Uncommitted players who attended included Itawamba AHS tailback Ashton Shumpert and Noxubee County defensive end Dylan Bradley.
Prospects from the 2014 and ’15 classes also were on hand.
Byrne comes back
Greg Byrne, who served as MSU’s athletics director from 2008-10, was back in Starkville to watch the game. He’s now AD at Arizona, but the Wildcats had a week off, so Byrne flew in to see some old friends.
It was Byrne who hired Mullen after the 2008 season. Stricklin took over as AD in the spring of 2010 after Byrne left for Arizona.
MSU is home against to take on Middle Tennessee State, a Sun Belt Conference school.
The Blue Raiders (4-2) beat FIU, 34-30, with a last-minute touchdown on Saturday.