May 22, 2010 11:47:00 PM
STARKVILLE -- Scott Stricklin hasn''t had time to catch his breath since becoming Mississippi State''s athletic director and the whirlwind figures to keep him busy with football season roughly three months away.
Since taking over the department two weeks ago, Stricklin''s days have consisted of meetings with coaches and key members of the university''s hierarchy along with day-to-day responsibilities.
His predecessor and close friend, Greg Byrne, left him with tremendous growth to continue. Part of that includes a solid staff Stricklin says he''s "fortunate" to have in place.
"In many ways, this has been a smooth transition," Stricklin said.
Stricklin''s excitement for strengthening athletics at Mississippi State is tempered by his understanding to not get ahead of himself. There''s a lot on the horizon, including Davis Wade Stadium expansion plans, campus master plan and future facilities upgrades. But in nine days he''ll take part in the Southeastern Conference''s annual athletic director''s and president''s meetings in Destin, Fla.
He admits his first experience will involve more listening than talking as multiple proposals from other schools will be presented.
There is, however, one issue that will directly involve Stricklin and the Mississippi State representatives while in Destin -- the cowbell.
Long a symbol of Mississippi State athletics and tradition -- there''s even a school logo that includes the cowbell -- the artificial noise-maker ban has been tested by for the last 36 years.
The policy will be re-visited in Destin, but to what extent is unknown. Stricklin isn''t sure what to expect, but he''s aware of the other institutions'' displeasure as they believe MSU has an unfair advantage.
It''s a delicate balance for the still green athletic director because as an alum, he appreciates and champions the tradition yet understands there''s 11 other teams in the league who view the cowbell differently.
"Cowbells are important to Mississippi State and our fans, but our membership in the SEC is critically important," Stricklin said. "We''re very proud of that as well. You''d like for those two things to coexist."
Policing cowbells has been a challenge for MSU, but short of patting down fans and doing extensive searches, security officials check bags and confiscate cowbells when they''re seen.
"Just like some things get into stadiums all across the league that you wish weren''t getting in, sometimes the cowbells get in despite our best efforts," Stricklin said. "The other league members recognize it''s a challenge, but I think their point is that there''s a rule in place. They don''t feel like that rule is being respected. I understand both sides of it, but as a Mississippi State person I understand the value of a cowbell and the special place it holds. I''m open to any discussion."
Stricklin hopes to find a middle ground on the issue, though he''s not sure what that entails.
Any sanctions or penalties that could come from the league altering the artificial noise-maker policy could affect the game day experience on campus, Stricklin said.
The first-time AD is keen to preserve the school''s traditions and wants to continue enhancing the fan atmosphere on campus. Especially after MSU''s football team set an attendance record last season.
Football being the main revenue generator, talks of expanding Davis Wade Stadium have grown to plans with a national sports architect over what steps need to be taken to add to the venue.
However, any plans to add to the football stadium hinge on consistent success. Therefor, there is no timeframe for expansion at Davis Wade. The Bulldogs have seven home games in each football season up to 2016, with the exception of next season.
"Football''s where we have an opportunity to grow," Stricklin said. "Very soon, we''ll be in a position where we''re selling out season tickets in football. Once you get to that point, it makes a lot of sense to take the next steps. We don''t want to be short-sided where in five years we put something up and wish we would have done something differently. We want to have that in place so when the opportunity arises we can act on it."
On the horizon in the fall is the campus master plan, which Stricklin said will give the department vital information on how to improve venues and the cost estimates to get there. Expected to be completed in the next six months, the campus master plan will help with the "disconnect" between the north half of the campus and the rest of campus, Stricklin said.
"For the first time, it will give us a good traffic flow and parking plan," he said. "We do a great job with that now, but as we have more fans come to games it''ll give us a real good idea of how to move pedestrians around campus. There''s some disjointedness when you''re moving from the central part of campus to the north part of campus where we are. We would love a really clean pedestrian traffic flow plan that really integrates this athletic part of campus with the rest of campus. It''s going to be exciting when we get that back."