STARKVILLE — Mike Nemeth was so impressed with Scott Stricklin, he hired him three times.
The first time was when Stricklin stepped on the Mississippi State campus as a student. Nemeth, who was an assistant athletic director, hired Stricklin as the baseball media relations contact in 1990. Upon Stricklin’s graduation from MSU in 1992, Nemeth hired him as assistant media relations director, his first full-time job.
When Stricklin returned to his alma mater in 2008 as the senior associate athletic director of external affairs, Nemeth, along with then-Director of Athletics Greg Byrne, was involved in the hiring process.
“He’s bright, you know, a very smart guy, not just in athletics, but smart overall,” Nemeth told The Dispatch last week. “He’s a great decision-maker. He doesn’t usually make bad decisions. He was able to work well with other people.”
Stricklin’s rise at MSU might not have been possible if Nemeth didn’t take a chance on him. Stricklin reached the pinnacle at MSU in 2010 when he replaced Byrne as MSU’s director of athletics.
Today, Stricklin, 46, is expected to be named the director of athletics at the University of Florida, according to USA Today, which reported Stricklin was in Gainesville, Florida, on Monday finalizing the deal.
MSU President Mark Keenum confirmed that report on Tuesday morning, announcing on the university’s website a nationwide search for Stricklin’s replacement is underway.
Keenum said he wants “to find an individual with the vision and leadership to meet high expectations for success at Mississippi State,” and he commended Stricklin for his service.
“Over the past six years, Scott raised the profile of MSU athletics, improved facilities across the board and provided the resources for our student athletes to compete for championships,” Keenum said.
Stricklin didn’t respond to several requests for a comment. Calls and text messages to Nemeth on Monday went unreturned.
Stricklin, a Jackson native, would take over for Jeremy Foley, who announced his retirement in June. Foley’s last day is Oct. 1. Foley spent 25 years leading Florida athletics.
Among Strickland’s notable hires at MSU are men’s basketball coach Ben Howland and women’s basketball coach Vic Schaefer. Howland went to three-straight NCAA Final Fours with the University of California-Los Angeles from 2006-08. UCLA was the national runner-up in 2006 to Florida. Schaefer has led MSU to back-to-back NCAA tournament appearances, including a trip to the Sweet 16 last season.
Stricklin has also been a big proponent of facilities. He was involved in a $75-million expansion and renovation to Davis Wade Stadium in 2014, which bowled the north end zone and brought the capacity to 61,337. He played an integral role in securing the Mize Pavilion at Humphrey Coliseum, an $11.7 million basketball practice facility. He helped with the $6 million project of softball’s Nusz Park and the adjoining Pitts Tennis Centre. Both golf teams now share a $2.2-million practice facility at Old Waverly Golf Club in West Point and soccer recently unveiled a $1.8-million clubhouse.
Stricklin announced in the spring MSU will break ground in June 2017 on a $55-million renovation project at Dudy Noble Field. The biggest video board in college baseball is under construction at the baseball stadium.
For his efforts, Stricklin received the 2015-16 Under Armour Athletics Director of the Year Award by the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACDA).
“I think Scott’s got a tremendous drive,” Nemeth said. “He wants to bring success to everything he touches. I think we saw that happen at Mississippi State. He brought success to an athletic program he oversaw. I also think he loves challenges and obviously Mississippi State provided him with a great challenge … and I think he did a great job of [overcoming the challenges].”
Before returning to MSU, Stricklin, who is married to the former Anne Howell, the youngest daughter of Basketball Hall of Fame member Bailey Howell, worked as an associate media relations director at Auburn (1993-98), assistant athletic director of media relations at Tulane (1998), assistant athletic director of communications and marketing at Baylor (1999-2003), and associate athletic director of media relations at Kentucky (2003-07).
Follow Dispatch sports writer Ben Wait on Twitter @bcwait
Ben Wait reports on Mississippi State University sports for The Dispatch.