“My scheduling tweet did generate a lot of fresh conversation. You know, we had reached out to a lot of schools and when you are doing it one-on-one there’s no sense of a market place being created. By going public with it we were trying to create a marketplace.” -Florida AD Scott Stricklin
Athletic Director at the University of Florida, Scott Stricklin generated a good bit of buzz by using Twitter to extend an invitation to other Power Five programs for future potential football matchups. His tweet said, “Attention ADs from the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12 or Pac-12, [Florida] is looking to add additional Home-and-Home series against P5 opponents. Let’s connect and schedule quality games the fans want to see!”
He tells CollegeAD that tweet did just what he wanted it to do.
“We really wanted to start a conversation to see if we could find programs that would be a fit, maybe even with schools who aren’t usually involved with Florida, just leading to a conversation. We don’t want to conduct that business in the shadows, we want to be clear about our intent, which is to create quality match-ups that get fans excited.”
Stricklin says it’s not really feasible to have a scheduling mandate and programs need to schedule the way that works for them.
“What is uniform is that we all play 12 games. What the composition of what those 12 games are is does two things,” he explained. “One you are indicating what your team goals are. If you are trying to get a bowl game you will schedule in such a way to try and win six. Two, it also lets us provide more diversity in our scheduling and I think that’s something that fans appreciate.”
The University of Florida, so far, has not opened up alcohol says in general seating at football games, but Stricklin tells CollegeAD there is a pilot program going on right now to introduce more widespread alcohol sales.
“We are selling alcohol at the basketball games, we thought basketball would be a good opportunity to test out the new SEC rules regarding alcohol. It’s still early but we’ve had positive feedback. We are going to go through basketball season and evaluate and see if there’s an opportunity to expand it to other sports in the future.”
The lack of alcohol at other sports venues doesn’t mean that Florida is standing still on fan experience. This August the university launched the Gator Nation app. This app helps fans with tickets and information sharing to let everyone stay connected with the Gators and each other.
“Last year we invested in a full stadium, high density, wifi system so that our fans could stay connected at a high level,” Stricklin said. “This allows us to do things like mobile ticketing, seat upgrades, concession orders. We are making our stadium more usable through technology. The feedback from fans has been pretty positive.”
Florida has been busy making improvements, that not only impress fans but staff and student-athletes as well. In 2015 they added a fully air-conditioned practice facility that features a 120-yard synthetic turf football field with camera platforms, video workroom, equipment storage, and restrooms. Otis Hawkins Center and O’Connell Center also have made waves with new state-of-the-art additions.
“We are currently undergoing construction of the Florida Ballpark and it’s going to be a phenomenal $60 million facility that will be completed this coming summer. Then we’ll take the place where our current baseball stadium sits and repurpose the land build a new $80 million football training center that will be the day-to-day home of our football team.”
The 130,000-square foot football training center will break ground in June of 2020 with a goal for completion before the end of 2021. Florida’s meeting rooms, locker room, strength and conditioning area, training room and coaches’ offices will all be adjacent to the practice field, creating maximum efficiency within the program.
Just two years ago, Jordan Brand welcomed the University of Florida to the family. Florida is just the fourth collegiate football program to represent the Jumpman and the brand’s first college program in the Southeastern Conference. Scott Stricklin says the university has been a great match with Jordan Brand.
“It’s a special brand within the Nike family. There’s a lot that goes along with it from a high-profile standpoint. People like the look, they like the shoes, obviously being associated with Michael Jordan is pretty special. We’ve been very excited to be associated with it. It’s been well received by our athletes, coaches, and fans.”
The partnership is with the football team and the men’s and women’s basketball teams. The Gators’ uniforms began to feature the Jumpman logo at the start of the 2018-19 season.