Scott Stricklin’s difficult decision: Stay with State or head to Florida?

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Scott Stricklin, Mississippi State University athletic director.

Russ Houston/MSU

Scott Stricklin, Mississippi State University athletic director.

All indications are that Mississippi State athletic director Scott Stricklin will be offered the same job at Florida.

I don’t know what he will do, but I do know this will be the most difficult, gut-wrenching decision of Scott Stricklin’s life.

If published reports are correct, Stricklin would stand to make nearly $1 million more annually than his current $500,000 salary. That’s life-changing money. And it would be at a place that spends about twice as much on athletics as Mississippi State.

On the other hand, Stricklin currently has the job he always wanted at the place he loves most in the world. Remember, Stricklin did stints at Tulane, Baylor, Auburn and Kentucky before coming back home to State.

Rick Cleveland

Melanie Thortis

Rick Cleveland

And I am reminded of what Scott told me when he took the State A.D. job in May of 2010 on the day before his 40th birthday. “Everything I picked up and learned at all those places I always looked at through the prism of how can I one day go back to Mississippi State and use this information,” Stricklin, said.

He has used it all well. By any measure, he has been a smashing success at Mississippi State. Just look at the facilities. Look at the success on the fields and the courts. Little wonder that Florida would come to court him.

I have known Scott since he was an 18-year-old freshman, fresh out of Jackson Prep, working as a student assistant in the sports information office at Mississippi State.

The late, great Bob Hartley was recently retired but still a fixture in the athletic offices at MSU. Hartley and I were talking one day when Stricklin walked by, smiling as always, and said hello. “That boy,” Hartley said after Stricklin walked away, “has a lot on the ball. He’s headed for bigger and better things.”

Mr. Bob, as was usually the case, was dead-on.

So I don’t know what Scott will do. I know him well enough that whatever he does, he will do with the best interests of his wife and two daughters in mind. A deeply religious man, he will pray about it. And, judging from his track record, he will make the right decision.

I looked up the column I wrote the day Stricklin was introduced as State’s 15th athletic director.

It said this: “Mark Keenum’s hiring of Stricklin makes sense for many reasons. One, he’s a State guy, maroon through and through. He loves the place. He’s smart; he’s a people person. Plus, he is in the right place at the right time. He is uniquely prepared to take over for Greg Byrne, the man who brought him back to State as his right-hand man two years ago. He knows the inner workings, both at State and in collegiate athletics in general.”

So I don’t know what Scott will do. I know he is torn between his love and passion for all things Mississippi State and the unique opportunities at Florida.

And I know this: Either way, he wins.

Rick Cleveland is Mississippi Today’s sports columnist. Read his previous columns and his Sports Daily blog