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ITG Feature: Stricklin's Commitment to Fan Involvement

March 4, 2019
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FLORIDA FOOTBALL & RECRUITING COVERAGE
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When Scott Stricklin took over as athletic director at University of Florida in late 2016, he began preaching the importance of fan interaction. Showing up, being loud, giving support, being a crucial part of games across all sports was what he has asked and continues to ask of every fan, making sure they understand how vital they are to the success. It was more than just lip service in an opening press conference though and has become a pillar by which Stricklin is shaping his era of Florida sports.

“We’ve got a lot to do I think still with making sure the fans understand how important a role they play in creating a great atmosphere and the investment we need them to make not just financially but with their time, show up early and be in the stands and create a great atmosphere in the Swamp,. We’ve got to do some things to encourage them, it’s not just on them, we’ve got to do our part as well. So there’s a lot of things in place,” Stricklin tells Inside the Gators.

The A.D.’s office sits in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium surrounded by support staff offices, communications and coaches. With just a short walk he can be at nearly every sporting venue on campus. He sits at the heart of the program and as such is making sure he always has a pulse on the base. Now in a world that has moved largely on-line, Stricklin is tapping into the resources there, namely Twitter.

“Twitter came around before I ever became an A.D., which is hard to imagine, but as an A.D. I’ve always interacted with fans that way. I came from an external background so I understand the power and role of communication and marketing and branding and how important a role the fans play in creating momentum with the program so that opportunity to have a direct connection and engage through social media is probably the best use of that platform.”

 

Stricklin can often be seen interacting with fans on the social media app, answering questions, taking requests, and soliciting ideas. And with a massive fan base that stretches not only the country but the world, the A.D. is learning how to use the voices to the program’s advantage.

“It gives you a big microphone. 20 years ago you had to rely on somebody else delivering your message, whether it was media or whatever and now you have unfiltered access to get your point across or your message across or to brag about something that’s going on. I actually think the bigger the fan base, the bigger the benefit is.

“It’s not uncommon for me to get someone tweeted something to me that I don’t have the answer to but it seems like a good question so I’ll send it to someone on my staff and a lot of times I won’t respond to them but someone on my staff may follow up with them, try to give them an answer, help them out. You’ve gotta balance, sometimes there’s just noise so you have to balance what seems credible and what seems like someone just blowing off steam.”

 

 

Operating under the belief that the fans are not a byproduct of the program but a crucial piece of the puzzle isn’t as easy though as just answering some tweets. It means taking those ideas and/or concerns and implementing them in the future fan experience. From there, it’s an advantageous cycle. Fan input improves the experience which improves the support which begets the success which begets more support and an even better experience down the road…and so on and so forth.

 

 

“There’s no question that it’s feedback that we use…so our number one thing from a fan focus standpoint is, we’ve gotta continually give people a reason to wanna come and be excited about engaging with the University of Florida. So anytime we make a decision it needs to impact one of two groups; either our student athletes or our fans. Every financial decision we make needs to impact one of those two groups in some ways. What’s exciting about a project like what we did at softball, what we’re doing at baseball and when we get to the Swamp or what happened at the [Stephen C.] O’Connell Center is those are projects that impact both groups in a really significant way.”

And it’s more than just game days. When fans are excited about the program, Stricklin sees them just wanting to be around it in whatever way possible. That means more traffic into Gainesville, more influx for local businesses and a brand that can stay on an upward trajectory. The upcoming Garth Brooks concert in April in the Swamp is the first step in that process.

“That one kinda fell in our lap. We had been having some internal conversations that it would be nice to have a concert in the Swamp to engage it a time of the year when it’s not typically being used by fans and then literally overnight this kind of dropped in our lap. But we’re excited about it because we would like to do some more of these in the future and we’re hoping that this one is a success. The Swamp is such an iconic venue and to be able to partner a generational type of artist is a pretty cool opportunity.”

When head football coach Dan Mullen arrived in Gainesville, he said he wanted game days to be a mixture of a football game, a rock concert and a state fair. Strides are still being made to reach that level of epicness but with improved Wi-fi being installed in the Swamp, new food options and the inclusion of Tom Petty songs to the point it’s quickly become a tradition, Stricklin has proven himself to truly thinking of the fans and taking suggestions of those who care the most about the program. By doing the same with basketball, baseball and softball, the Florida athletic director has found a way to include every single person in Gator Nation in order to grow Gator Nation.

 

“I think we have an opportunity here at Florida because of the size of the university, the size of our alumni base, the caliber of student athletes and coaches we’re able to have here, if we can have sustained momentum then we got a chance to really see some special things happen.”

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Part I - Scott Stricklin living out his dream with the Gators

Part II -  Stricklin's Commitment to Fan Involvement

Part III - Stricklin Outlines the Gators Fiscal and Physical Feature

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ITG Feature: Stricklin's Commitment to Fan Involvement

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