UGA names Stricklin baseball coach

mlough@macon.comJune 5, 2013 

ATHENS -- Going to the College World Series a year ago put Scott Stricklin on a lot of lists for consideration by big-time programs.

“I relied on probably 8-10 people to provide some input, over all walks of baseball,” Georgia athletics director Greg McGarity said of the advice when the baseball job opened. “Scott’s name was always ... ‘You’ve gotta talk to this guy.”

And yet not making the NCAA tournament this season may have quickened his move to such a program.

“(That) kind of helped accelerate things from our end,” said McGarity, who flew directly from the SEC meetings in Destin, Fla., to meet with Stricklin. “Their season’s over. That’s when you can move a little bit quicker.”

And McGarity did, hiring Stricklin over the weekend, announcing it on Monday and introducing him Wednesday at a press conference.

Stricklin brings to Athens a 350-188 record in nine years at Kent State, his alma mater.

“I can’t tell you how difficult it was to leave,” Stricklin said. “One of the things I talked with Mr. McGarity and Jim (Booz) and Carla (Williams) about was that there might be one job in the country that I may leave Kent, Ohio for, and that’s being a Georgia Bulldog.”

Booz is Georgia’s senior associate athletics director for compliance and Williams is the executive associate athletics director. Both worked with Stricklin at Vanderbilt.

David Perno was fired in mid-May with a 399-334 overall record and 160-189-1 in SEC play. He made $450,000 in his final season.

Stricklin, who signed a six-year, $1.8 million contract extension last year to more than double his salary, was the only interviewee. He agreed to a six-year deal with Georgia for about $575,000 a year, McGarity said, which puts him among the higher-paid coaches nationally, excluding outside income.

But putting the Bulldogs on a consistently competitive level is Stricklin’s priority.

“I think everyone recognizes the potential that the University of Georgia has,” Stricklin said. “Being able to get to the national championship game a few years ago tells you how great it can be.

“What we’re looking for it so be more consistent, to be consistently great. Not great, and then have some troubles and some ups and downs. And that’s tough to do, it’s tough to sustain.”

Stricklin is confident he can be as successful in Athens as he was in Kent.

“That’s what we were able to do at Kent State,” he said. “We won eight straight championships, and we’re going to do everything we can to be consistently great here at the University of Georgia.”

Even with three trips to the CWS in a five-year span, Perno was fired after inconsistent success and mixed reviews, earning criticism for failing to recruit well in-state and for a high turnover on the roster and staff.

Stricklin should be able to counter the recruiting problem, having helped Georgia Tech to the 2002 CWS and a Super Regional in Athens two years later.

“The biggest trick to our job is finding the players that are going to come to campus,” he said. “The way that you do that is you find kids that value their education, that have education in their family’s background, that love the university, that love the college game, and that understand that professional baseball’s not going anywhere.

“You have to find those players that truly want to come to college.”

Stricklin has already communicated with Perno, who texted Stricklin. Perno expressed his support for Stricklin and love for Georgia.

“He reached out to me, and he was very gracious in doing so,” said Stricklin, who had planned to talk to Perno at some point. “Really, I was taken aback with our conversation.”

Stricklin brings a diversified resume, with success at each stop.

It began when he earned All-MAC honors twice as a catcher at Kent State, which had the No. 1 and 2 ERAs in the nation during his final two seasons.

A 23rd-round draft pick in 1993 by Minnesota, he spent five seasons in the pros and reached the AAA level.

He spent two years a volunteer coach at Georgia Tech, two as Vanderbilt’s pitching coach, then three seasons back at Tech as recruiting coordinator as well as coaching hitters and catchers.

Stricklin’s worst record at Kent State was 36-21 in 2008, and only one time -- his first season -- did the Golden Flashes have a losing conference record.

He’s getting the job at an optimum time.

Foley Field is amid a long-term set of renovations that will end up costing about $10 million by the time they’re done, ranging from cosmetic to a new scoreboard to new plaza and concourse as well as much-need behind-the-scenes upgrades with dugouts, locker rooms, batting cage, training room, etc.

Combine that with Georgia’s resources, massive in-state talent and the program’s potential, and Stricklin didn’t need much selling.

“I left my alma mater to come to my dream job,” Stricklin said. “And this is my dream job, here at the University of Georgia.”

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