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The Florida Gators announced Scott Stricklin as the program’s new athletic director on Tuesday. Stricklin, who spent the last six years leading Mississippi State, finalized his deal Monday, completing a Florida search that lasted more than three months.
“I’m really excited about this opportunity at Florida,” Stricklin said. “I’m an SEC guy. I understand the position Florida holds in college athletics. I’m excited to come and be part of the department. It’s a great staff here to work with. I love college towns. The opportunity to come and get invested in another community, with my family, you start balancing all that and you understand at this point in my career, this is an opportunity you just can’t not do.”
He added: “I couldn’t have left for any other place but Florida. It’s just a special place not only in the world of the SEC, but in college athletics because of the success they’ve had and the way they’ve had it with the integrity. Florida holds a leadership position in college athletics. And you look at the academic reputation, it’s one of the best universities in the country. That’s a pretty hard combination to not take the opportunity if it’s offered to you.”
Here’s what you need to know about Stricklin and the Gators’ hire.
He’s getting paid: Stricklin signed a six-year, $6.46 million deal with Florida, doubling the salary he earned at Mississippi State. He also received a $150,000 signing bonus.
He’s not starting right away: The original plan was for Jeremy Foley to end his 40-year career and 25-year stint as AD on Oct. 1. However, the elongated search for Foley’s replacement has led Foley to agree to staying on for an additional month. Stricklin will take over on Nov. 1, giving him the opportunity to put a bow on his work in Starkville, Mississippi, before beginning his new job in Gainesville, Florida.
He was an early target: Stricklin may not have been the first candidate interviewed or offered the Gators job, but he was most certainly near the top of Florida’s list. The Clarion-Ledger reports that Stricklin initially turned down Florida’s offer but returned to the table when UF crossed the $1 million-per-year barrier. A source told OnlyGators.com that UF expressed initial interest in Stricklin a week after Foley’s departure.
He was not an easy hire: Sure, the Gators offer double the athletic budget of the Bulldogs and are considered one of the premier athletic departments in the nation. Sure, most sitting athletic directors would kill for this job. That does not mean convincing Stricklin to leave Starkville was without effort. Stricklin is not only a native of Jackson, Mississippi, he attended MSU and worked with the Bulldogs out of college, returning to his alma mater in 2008 following stints at Auburn, Tulane, Baylor and Kentucky. He has served as Mississippi State’s AD for the last six seasons and to say he has great ties to the school is an understatement. Oh, and he’s also married to the daughter of Bulldogs basketball legend Bailey Howell.
His youth and tenacity are a plus: Only 45, Stricklin is 18 years Foley’s junior and is a new AD for a new era of college athletics. He’s a presence on social media, constantly interacts with fans and understands that fundraising is integral to Florida’s continued success. He raised over $140 million for facilities upgrades at Mississippi State and led booms in booster donations and ticket sales across all sports. Stricklin is also engaging and innovative, which for all of Foley’s strong qualities, will be a nice change-of-pace in Gainesville.
Stricklin really likes the Gators: Here’s what he told the school’s website about how he views Florida athletics. “They’re the standard that everybody measures themselves against,” he said. “When the Gators show up you have to straighten your tie and make sure everything is locked up. They are the benchmark. Professionally, that is an incredible challenge. That gets my juices flowing. We’ve got to figure out how we’re going to be a part of continuing that, but there’s no standing still. You either go forward or you fall behind, but how do you go forward from here? That kind of gets me fired up.”
Foley is not going anywhere: What was reported to be a reason some turned down the job with the Gators, Foley will remain with the program as emeritus athletic director/senior advisor to the president for at least the next five years. The reason this was presumably not much of an issue for Stricklin is that he and Foley have an existing relationship and get along quite well.
“I’ve known Scott on a personal and professional level for a long, long time,” Foley said. “I have a tremendous amount of respect for Scott and what he has accomplished at Mississippi State and the other institutions where he has worked. Scott is a wonderful leader, and a great person. He has passion for student-athletes and loves working with and supporting coaches. Those two qualities alone make him a great fit for Florida.
“Scott is about the right things and running the business the right way. I have the utmost confidence that Scott will help the Gators carry out our mission to provide a championship experience with integrity. We’ve sat in the room together at AD meetings for several years now, and I’ve seen firsthand that Scott brings a deep understanding and appreciation for what it takes to run a successful athletic program, particularly in the Southeastern Conference. I couldn’t be more excited to have Scott serve as the next athletic director at the University of Florida.”
Stricklin is not just an administrator: In addition to his experience in this role, Stricklin has spent a ton of time working in communications. This should speak to an improved relationship with the media rather than the standoff-ish attitude Florida has taken over over the last decade.
The school president likes him: “Scott Stricklin is a strong leader with tremendous experience who shares the University of Florida’s most treasured values, from the success and well-being of our student athletes to excellence across the breadth of both men’s and women’s sports,” said Kent Fuchs. “We’re confident that he will build on Jeremy Foley’s legacy to take UF’s program to even greater heights while leading the way in shaping the future of collegiate athletics nationally.”
Stricklin was the nation’s top AD … just last year: He was named the 2016 Under Armour Athletic Director of the Year for FBS programs.
All the coaches like him: Of course they do, despite having met him likely less than a handful of times each, most probably for the first time on Monday or Tuesday. Here’s what head football coach Jim McElwain had to say.
“The reason I came here is because of the great leadership and the brand that surrounds this athletic department. Scott is someone who understands that the reason we exist and have jobs is because of the student-athletes. I will always be grateful for Jeremy. He is the guy that brought me here, and I appreciate his belief in me and our staff in what we are trying to accomplish here. I really look forward to working with Scott. His forward thinking and excitement for being a Gator was immediately apparent. I know Gator Nation has a lot to be excited about in the future.”
The former and current SEC commissioner like him: Of course they do, too.
“In the years I worked with Scott, he was always very thoughtful, innovative, and always understood the role of the conference. Someone I really have a lot of respect for,” retired SEC commissioner Mike Slive told the school. “He’s got all the tools. He has proven experience as an athletic director. When you take that plus his knowledge of the SEC, that’s a very significant hire by Florida.”