Copyright 2017 The Florida Times-Union
Florida Times-Union (Jacksonville)
There won't be any such thing as a grace period at the University of Florida for new athletic director Scott Stricklin.
He wouldn't want it any other way. The national athletic director of the year at Mississippi State in 2016, where he oversaw historic facilities construction and renovation in Starkville during his six years there, Stricklin has wasted little time in getting out to meet boosters, alumni and fans on a statewide level to get to know them and allow them to do the same.
And he said there's one common thread to the input he's getting during his current tour.
"Everybody wants to know what's next," Stricklin said before addressing more than 100 Gator boosters at the Schulz Center on Tuesday, the third of five such stops around the state. "That's a natural human reaction. Florida has had a ton of success, a lot of SEC and national championships, a lot of Olympians and yet the great thing about being at a place like Florida is you always want to know, how do you top this? How do we keep moving forward?"
Well, Stricklin has an answer for that. In addition to continuing Florida's success on the playing fields, courts, diamonds, tracks and pools, he's pitching the plans for a new stand-alone football facility and renovations to the baseball and softball stadiums - just weeks after the final pieces of $106 million worth of projects were completed, such as the renovation of the Exactech Arena at the Stephen C. O'Connell Center, the Hawkins Center at Farrior Hall academic support building and the indoor football practice facility.
The new plans call for another $100 million. One of the last acts of former athletic director Jeremy Foley was to finalize plans for those improvements but it's now Stricklin's job to raise the money.
"We've had great response," said Stricklin, a veteran of 28 years in athletic administration who led the way in raising more than $140 million for facilities at Mississippi State. "I think people understand the vision and why these projects are a priority for the University of Florida. In the last 16 months Florida completed $106 million worth of projects ... really huge projects that have impacted the University positively in a short amount of time. We're going to take that experience and show Gator Boosters why these next projects are important. I definitely think Gator Boosters will get behind us and make these projects successful."
Former Florida football coach Steve Spurrier, now an ambassador and consultant for UF, has been making the booster trips with Stricklin and said Gator Nation has embraced their new athletic department head with open arms and minds.
"He's a wonderful guy and I can tell why he was the AD of the year last year," Spurrier said. "I think we're going to have a wonderful working relationship. Scott is being very well-received. Jeremy Foley was one of the best ADs ever and I think Scott is right in that league."
Stricklin said Gator fans will accept nothing less than the legacy Foley built over 25 years - three national championships in football, two in basketball, 22 national championships in other sports and 130 SEC titles.
He said he looks forward to meeting those standards.
"Florida fans are incredibly passionate ant they've had a lot of success, gotten used to success and they want more success," Stricklin said. "That's awesome, that we're at a place with high expectations."
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