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In high-pressure SEC, athletic director manages ‘in a fashion that reflects Christ’

With Mississippi State University advancing to the championship round of the College World Series, life is good these days for fans of the Bulldogs like Scott Stricklin.
Stricklin has more than just a passing interest in the success of his alma mater, though. As Mississippi State’s athletic director, he leads a department that fields teams in 17 sports and competes in what’s arguably the nation’s top major-college league, the Southeastern Conference.
It’s a job in which he’s often second-guessed, but Stricklin, who attends the Starkville Church of Christ in Mississippi with his wife, Anne, and daughters Abby and Sophie, said it’s his faith — in God and in his coworkers — that often has helped him deal with the difficult situations faced by someone in his position.
“You can’t control everything, and I think your faith comes in there, because God tells us he doesn’t want us to try to control everything,” Stricklin told The Christian Chronicle during a break in the annual convention of the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics. “He wants us to trust him, right? There are a lot of times when you realize, we’re going to do the best we can but we can’t control everything here. We’re going to make sure we have the people in place and give them responsibility and trust them to do their jobs.”
Stricklin, 42, took an unusual route to the top athletic job at Mississippi State, spending more than two decades in athletic media relations in stops at MSU, Auburn University, Tulane University, Baylor University and the University of Kentucky. While at UK, he worked with Greg Byrne, who by 2008 had become MSU’s athletic director.
Byrne approached Stricklin to see if Stricklin would be willing to make the jump from media relations to athletic fundraising. Stricklin became MSU’s senior associate athletic director for external affairs. Byrne left to become Arizona’s athletic director, and Stricklin replaced him in May 2010.
Those who have worked with Stricklin say he does a good job of incorporating his faith into his job.
“Every day, as the leader of an organization, you are confronted with dozens of decisions,” said Kentucky athletic director Mitch Barnhart, Stricklin’s former boss. “Scott always managed those decisions at Kentucky, and now as athletics director at Mississippi State, in a fashion that reflects Christ.”
Tony Neely, Kentucky’s media relations director, attends Southside Church of Christ in Lexington, where Stricklin and his family worshiped when they lived in Kentucky.
“Scott taught classes at Southside and also helped teachers keep classes lively with his combination of wit and wisdom,” Neely said. “Scott also sought to live his faith in the workplace. The man I saw on Sunday mornings was the same man I saw at the office.”
Stricklin said he relishes the opportunity to let people know that he’s a man of faith and believes there are ways of doing so, even working at a state school, such as using biblical examples in speeches and highlighting student-athletes who do mission work.
“It’s amazing,” he said, “how God puts you in a position to either share your faith or just try to set an example and show what he has done in your life.”

Filed under: People

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