GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida football coach Jim McElwain brought new Gators athletic director Scott Stricklin in to meet with his players on Thursday as the university’s athletic department formally kicks off a new era this week.
Joining McElwain on his weekly “Gator Talk” radio appearance inside Piesanos Pints & Pies later in the evening, Stricklin said while his first official day on the job was not until Tuesday he has been following the football team closely all fall.
Stricklin, who had been the athletic director at his alma mater Mississippi State since 2010, was formally announced as Florida’s new AD on Sept. 27.
“I’ve had a chance to obviously lock in and follow the Gators all this year, more than I normally would, so it’s really fun to see the guys up close and personal that you see on TV. And obviously I was there last Saturday and saw the big win over Georgia,” Stricklin said. “It seems like a group that really understands they’ve really got a neat opportunity in front of them, and Jim, you deserve a lot of credit for kind of getting them in the mindset, understanding what’s in front in them.”
While Stricklin was meeting the players for the first time Thursday, he is already very familiar with one key member of the Gators’ coaching staff.
Florida defensive coordinator Geoff Collins spent four seasons at Mississippi State from 2011-14 before joining McElwain’s staff.
“I think Geoff is as good a defensive coordinator as there is in the country, and if you don’t believe me ask the Georgia Bulldogs after last Saturday,” Stricklin said.
More quotes like that and he’ll become a fan favorite here quickly.
Longtime athletic director Jeremy Foley announced back in the summer his plans to retire this fall, and the transition became official on Nov. 1. Foley leaves the post after 25 years as AD and 40 overall at the school, but he’ll remain around in an emeritus position to help the university and be a resource to Stricklin when needed.
As for settling into town, Stricklin said he’s starting to learn some of the back roads from his hotel to campus.
And as he watched the final game of the World Series on television Wednesday night, he was also tracking live stats from the Gators’ volleyball game on his iPad and following the Florida women’s soccer team in action in the SEC tournament via WatchESPN.
“Jeremy deserves the credit for a lot of things, (starting with) the coaches he put together and then the culture where everyone supports one another. I think it’s critical that you understand, that everybody understands that we have 21 sports … but we have one university that we’re supporting here and we all have to work together,” Stricklin said during the radio show. “Just the culture that exists here is really exciting. You kind of sense it from the outside, but you find out a little bit more about it every day you’re here. It’s really strong.”
Stricklin reiterated that he looks forward to having Foley available as a resource, not only on Florida matters but for his stature in the SEC.
The job is his, though, and he’s seems genuinely appreciative of the desk he occupies now.
“I pinch myself every morning I get to wake up and go to work for the Florida Gators. It’s pretty cool,” Stricklin said. “… It’s hard to beat a good college town and Gainesville is about as good as it comes.”