GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida athletics director Jeremy Foley is a big recruiting guy.
Every time he visits the press box, he jokingly asks reporters if UF has landed any 8-star kids lately. In all seriousness, Foley gets that recruiting plays a big part in the success of Gators athletics.
For years, Florida was able to rely on its academics, tradition and program prestige to attract prospects to Gainesville. But the Gators fell behind in the SEC arms race and are now starting to catch up with their facilities.
Foley knows upgrades are not only for the benefit of current student-athletes, but the recruitment of new ones as well. Foley’s replacement, Scott Stricklin, also understands this importance.
“In this day and age in college athletics, facilities are really important,” said Stricklin, who was introduced at UF on Tuesday. “They say a lot about where your priorities are. And that can be good or bad.
“But I do think it’s important to make sure the facilities are at a level that when a prospective student-athlete comes on this campus, when your current student-athletes walk into these facilities, when your coaches and staff use those facilities, they know that we’re putting a priority in what those young people are doing.”
Florida made that commitment this month with a $100 million facilities initiative that includes a stand-alone football complex and renovations to the baseball and softball stadiums.
“I don’t know that we need gold-plated toilets. I don’t know that you have to have waterfalls in the locker room,” Stricklin said. “I think you need to have really nice facilities. And I’ll be honest, I think we have really good facilities here, and I think you’re always trying to push forward and improve upon that.
“I’m really excited about the plan that Jeremy and (Executive Associate AD) Chip Howard and everybody else has put together, and you gotta have a road map for where you’re going. And that’s kind of in place. I’m excited about being a part of trying to execute that, make that a reality.”
Facility upgrades at MSU
Stricklin became Mississippi State’s athletics director in 2010 and has since generated more than $140 million in facility improvements at the school.
MSU opened the Leo Seal Jr. Football Complex in January of 2013, which carried a $25 million price tag. The basketball arena, Humphrey Coliseum, has also received several renovations in recent years.
This has had a direct impact on recruiting.
After ranking outside of the top 25 annually for team rankings in football recruiting, the Bulldogs landed the nation’s No. 18 class in 2015. Last year the men’s basketball program brought in a top-10 recruiting class.
Stricklin has a strong reputation as a fundraiser and looks forward to raising more money for facilities to improve Florida’s athletic success and recruiting results.
“It’s kind of like being a good media relations guy. You’ve got to build relationships,” Stricklin said. “You’ve got to communicate a good message and sometimes you have to sit down and have a difficult conversion by sometimes asking people for their money.
“It can be a little uncomfortable, but you have to be willing to do that in a way that makes them feel good about it. All fundraising is, is matching people with ability, funds and resources to share with their passion. Obviously a lot of people are passionate about the Florida Gators.”