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Thursday, May 31, 2012
Kicking it with MSU AD Scott Stricklin

By Edward Aschoff

DESTIN, Fla. -- SEC spring meetings can be a hectic time for SEC folks. Tons of ideas from coaches, athletic directors are flying back and forth and there's hardly time to really sit down and catch your breath.

Mississippi State athletic director Scott Stricklin has been one of those ADs running around to different meetings throughout the week, but he took a few minutes to chat with ESPN.com about a couple of hot topics in Destin and his football program:

Dan Mullen
Mississippi State AD Scott Stricklin said coach Dan Mullen has energized the school's fan base with his winning mentality.
Scheduling talks have been very lively here at the spring meetings, especially when it comes to the number of rotators teams will have. Where do you stand on league rotators?

Scott Stricklin: I go back to 1992 when we had two permanents, two cross-divisions and one rotator and it took you a while to get around that one rotator. And that was on a two-year cycle. If we go on a one-year cycle I don't know that it's going to be any different than anything that we've had. You'll get through those rotators a lot quicker. I don't think it's going to be as impactful from the fans' perspective.

No chance of nine games?

SS: I don't see it. We haven't left the meetings, so I guess there's always a chance, but I don't hear a lot of support for it. This league is all about competition and playing eight football games in this league is plenty of competition and I don't think you can be accused of ducking anybody when you line up and play eight SEC football games each year.

There's been a ton of playoff talk and some people want the top four, some are interested in conference champions and wild cards. Where do you sit on all of this?

SS: This league is all about competition and it just makes sense to me to let the four best teams compete and see who's going to be the national champion if we're going to have the playoffs. It's hard for me to fathom a scenario that the fans across the country would really buy into that doesn't feature the four best teams.

Let's shift gears to your team. A lot has changed at Mississippi State since coach [Dan] Mullen took over. He's brought some good energy and obviously some more wins. What's the confidence level in Starkville like these days?

SS: I think it's our whole student body and our whole campus community. There's a sense of pride and it's not just football; it's across our whole university. But football drives a lot of that -- that positive experience that we're enjoying right now. You know, it's a mind-set, and Dan has a winner's mind-set and he has helped bring our fans along with him on that. He stands up at every alumni gathering and every time he's addressing students he talks about winning championships -- winning SEC West championships and winning the [SEC] championship game. When he first got there we were real far away from that and we still haven't gotten there, but he's focused on the right thing. When you talk in grand terms like that it helps the fan base understand that it's OK to dream big. If you dream big and you fall short you're going to end up in a pretty good spot.

Dan's just really bright, has a lot of charisma and has done a great job of building our program, and building it for the long term. He hasn't taken a lot of shortcuts. We've redshirted a ton of kids the last couple of years and he's developing some depth. We've had some years in the past where we played in the [SEC] championship game and we've had some years where we popped up in the Cotton Bowl. Our challenge at Mississippi State has always been winning consistently and Dan's putting us into position to win consistently in the SEC.

That sort of success obviously can lead to funding bigger projects away from the field too, I imagine.

SS: Yeah, we're in the process right now of building a new football complex -- a $25 million facility (Leo Seal Jr. Football Complex). We're going to move into that when we come back from bowl season this year. So in January the team and the coaches will move into that facility and we anticipate breaking ground on stadium expansion sometime in 2012 and having that ready for the 2014 season. We've sold out 16 straight games in football. We've sold out season tickets. This will be the third straight year we've sold out season tickets. We've got a waiting list to buy season tickets -- we've never been in that situation before. We're going to be putting forth a lot of capital on football in a fairly short window -- about $90 million or so.

When I talk about winning consistently those kind of a investments are really important to help you have the resources and tools to win consistently.