By the time you read this, Brad Stricklin will no longer be UCF’s Interim Athletic Director. Instead, he’ll be back full-time in his regular office of Executive Senior Associate A.D. for Business and Chief Financial Officer, as Danny White began his full-time stint as the boss when he walked into work on December 14th:
Carrying boxes into the office this morning. Start of an exciting new chapter. Feels great to be a Knight! #ChargeOn
— Danny White (@UCFDannyWhite) December 14, 2015
But over the past two months, Stricklin has shepherded the athletic department through one of its most turbulent periods.
Stricklin has dealt with more high-profile issues since October 12th than most in that position would deal with in a whole year on the job. The departure of George O’Leary from the A.D. office, and then the head football coaching job two weeks later. The Tacko Fall eligibility situation. The hiring of White and later Scott Frost. Not to mention the day-to-day grind of running a major collegiate athletic department, all while maintaining his regular responsibilities of running the business side of UCF sports.
Yet he’s negotiated all those events and jobs with a demeanor as cool and calm as his southern accent.
Listen to our interview with Brad Stricklin, recorded the Friday before he relinquished the interim A.D. title to incoming A.D. Danny White:
Fortunately, no one at UCF was more prepared to deal with those types of situations than Stricklin, who has been in Orlando since 2006.
A graduate of Southern Miss with a bachelor’s degree in business and a focus on accounting, Stricklin served as an equipment manager for the Golden Eagles football team when Brett Favre was the quarterback. After graduating from USM, he earned a master’s in sport management from Georgia Southern. He went on to work at the University of Florida in the ticket office, and then later returned to GSU and assisted with the hiring of now-Georgia Tech head football coach Paul Johnson.
Stricklin came to UCF after seven years at Conference USA’s home office, and worked his way up to his current position. His responsibilities include running the business operations and human resources, and he is also the sport administrator for both golf programs.
You can see him here putting Scott Frost’s contract agreement before him for Frost to officially sign:
— UCF Football (@UCF_Football) December 2, 2015
When George O’Leary abandoned his position as A.D., Stricklin was the guy whom UCF’s trustees asked to pick up the baton. This couldn’t be further from easy, as two weeks later, he had to deal with the aftermath of O’Leary’s resignation from the football head coaching job in the middle of what would be an 0-12 football season.
Despite the on-field trouble for the school’s moneymaker program, business is still business, and Stricklin knows business. A finance guy at heart, he said his stint in the A.D.’s office was invaluable for his professional growth.
“I was very involved with a lot of issues that I haven’t faced much before, so it was really a lot of fun,” Stricklin said of his time in the Athletic Director’s office. “The A.D. piece forced me out of my comfort zone of being the guy that’s just crunching numbers, and doing the analysis and reporting long-term-type stuff to the A.D. Now I’m in the middle of it.”
His favorite moment of the past two months was helping handle Tacko Fall’s eligibility flap in the days leading up to basketball season.
“We had a great compliance and legal team that worked through all of those different issues,” Stricklin said, “but to be a small part of it was the coolest thing – it was the most rewarding thing to be able to see him on the court and playing.”
Telling Fall’s host parents over the phone that he had been cleared to play was the peak of that reward.
“I think they left away with the impression that UCF was here for the student-athlete, and it was important to us to fight to the very end to make sure that it was done the right way, and it was done the right way,” he said.
Stricklin has managed to balance the interim A.D. job with his regular full-time job quite well, and ever the team player, credits his staff for keeping everything running smoothly. He has also kept his lines of communication open with Danny White since White accepted the job last month.
“There’s been times when we’ve talked three or four times a day,” Stricklin said of his collaboration with White as he transitioned down to Orlando from Buffalo.
Now that White has officially moved into the A.D.’s office in the old Wayne Densch Center, Stricklin returns to his old job in his old office. But with a new athletic director and new football coach coming to campus, there’s still lots to do.
“I’m extremely excited about where we’re headed,” Stricklin said. “I’m excited to work for Danny [White], and I’m excited to help Scott [Frost] launch his new offense here in Orlando, and I think he’ll definitely give the fans a lot of entertainment value.”
In a period of turbulence and transition, it’s remarkable how smoothly things have gone for UCF. When it seemed on the outside that the athletic department was in turmoil, Stricklin kept the ship righted and paved the way for the installations of both White and Frost, which put UCF back in the national conversation, and set the stage for brighter days ahead.
You can follow Brad Stricklin on Twitter at @Brad_Stricklin.
Thanks to Andy Seeley at UCF for his help with this story.