December 8, 2012 10:42:11 PM
Matthew Stevens - email@example.com
STARKVILLE -- Every year, Mississippi State University Director of Athletics Scott Stricklin sits down with the Bulldog Club financial booster groups and explains what project is next on campus.
With the MSU football staff already moving in to the new Seal Football Complex, a $25 million football-only facility, the next objective on Stricklin's to-do list is to improve the facilities for MSU's Olympic sports.
In an exclusive interview with The Dispatch last week in his office in the Bryan Building, Stricklin confirmed the next projects MSU will undertake include facility upgrades for softball, golf, tennis, and soccer.
In August, MSU officials, including Stricklin and school president Mark Keenum, announced a $75-million expansion and renovation to Davis Wade Stadium at Scott Field. The project will increase capacity to 61,337, will provide additional premium seating, elevators, restrooms and concessions, and a new west side concourse. Construction on the project began earlier this year and is set to be completed in time for the 2014 season opener against the University of Southern Mississippi.
"I think our major issue was trying to figure out how to find the funds we needed to complete construction of the Seal Complex and the addition to Davis Wade Stadium," Stricklin said. "We are in a position now to finally say after these constructions are completed, football is in a good place."
Stricklin's other projects include a field house for a women's soccer coach Aaron Gordon, who was hired last month, a new practice facility for the golf team, and upgrades to the softball stadium in time for the school to serve as host for the 2014 Southeastern Conference tournament.
Gordon said in his introductory media conference he "had seen artist renderings" of what a soccer field house would look like, and the commitment to upgrading the facilities was one of the major reasons he was excited to take the job at MSU.
"It's something I will push for immediately and as often as I need to for it to possibly happen one day," Gordon said Nov. 27. "There's two sides to that element. One is you need the funds and donations, and that's on me, too. The second is after being in club (soccer) in Dallas for as long as I was, you have to realize the kids you're recruiting to have never had those things, so it's not the most important thing in the world to them. Quite frankly, most of the schools we'll be competing with for players don't have state-of-the-art soccer-only facilities, either."
Vann Stuedeman had a similar attitude when she was hired to be MSU's new softball coach. This past season, Stuedeman led MSU back to the NCAA tournament in her first season in Starkville. She, too, has been promised facility upgrades, and Stricklin made it clear he intends to keep those promises.
"We have hired architects for a brand new stadium," Stuedeman said in February. "(Stricklin) is out right now all the time trying to find donors so we can get a top-notch facility. We will break ground on a new stadium after completion of the 2013 season, so we are calling all donors. (Stricklin) has been very receptive to what we are trying to do to move this program forward."
Stricklin knows the projects for the football program have put issues with Olympic sports on a stand-by status, but nothing is in the way of making those renderings become a reality.
"We have a responsibility as leaders of this athletic department at Mississippi State to make sure our coaches have everything possible to compete in the Southeastern Conference, whether that's football, basketball, baseball or any other sports at this school," Stricklin said. "Our fans need to know we take them all seriously."
Stricklin also referenced other projects he'd like to accomplish as leader of MSU athletics, including a full renovation of Dudy Noble Field. First built in 1967, it has been bee upgraded numerous times in its 45 years.
"Dudy Noble Field is one of the few treasures left in all of college baseball, and I think we do a good job of making sure we continually update what we can with the chairback season and other things," Stricklin said. "We're always thinking to the future, and there's some things (MSU baseball coach John Cohen) and I have addressed about the outfield bleacher seating to enhance the fan experience."