According to those in the baseball know, Georgia hit a home run with its impending hire of Kent State’s Scott Stricklin.
Stricklin, 41, has agreed in principle to become the Bulldogs’ next baseball coach, multiple people familiar with the search confirmed to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. UGA cannot announce his hire, however, until he clears the school’s routine background checks. An official announcement is expected Monday or Tuesday.
“All I can say right now is I can’t comment on it,” Stricklin said Saturday morning. “I’m just being respectful of Greg and the University of Georgia’s athletic department. Hopefully I’ll be able to comment on it soon.”
Stricklin, a former Georgia Tech assistant, has led the Golden Flashes to five NCAA tournament berths and one College World Series appearance (2012) in nine seasons at the Ohio mid-major university. Kent State, his alma mater, won five Mid-American Conference regular-season titles and five MAC tournament titles under Stricklin. The Flashes won the MAC again this past season but were knocked out of the conference tournament by Ball State and did not receive a regional bid. They finished 36-23 (20-7 MAC) this season and 350-188 (.651) in nine years under Stricklin.
“This is a tremendous hire,” said Jim Callis, executive editor of Baseball America and a 1988 UGA graduate. “I really don’t know who would have been a better hire. That guy has done a tremendous job at Kent State. I could not be more thrilled as a Georgia alum, as a huge fan of Georgia baseball and a fan of Georgia sports in general.
“I don’t know if he’s bringing his staff with him or not, but every year they just crank out pitcher after pitcher after pitcher. I just think this is a great hire.”
Kent State pitching coach Mike Birkbeck was named college baseball’s assistant coach of the year by Baseball America in 2012. However, he’s expected to be a candidate now for Kent State’s head coaching position.
At Georgia, Stricklin will succeed David Perno, who was dismissed May 19 after 12 seasons as the Bulldogs’ coach. Perno led UGA to three College World Series berths, including the 2008 championship game, but failed to make a regional in three of the past four years. The Bulldogs were 21-32 this past season finished last in the SEC (7-20). Perno was 399-334-2 at Georgia and 160-189-1 in conference play.
UGA reportedly also had interest in Virginia head coach Brian O’Connor, Virginia Tech coach Pete Hughes, Louisville coach Dan McConnell, Arkansas assistant coach Todd Butler, Mississippi state asistant coach Butch Thompson and North Carolina assistant Scott Forbes.
But Sticklin was the only one of those coaches not involved in NCAA play this season and, with programs such as Auburn also looking for a new coach, the Bulldogs went after him quickly. Athletic Director Greg McGarity and other UGA athletic administrators flew to Akron, Ohio, this past Thursday to interview Stricklin. He was offered and accepted the Bulldogs’ job during that meeting.
Stricklin excelled in two stints as an assistant coach at Georgia Tech. He was recruiting coordinator for the Yellow Jackets in 2002 when they landed the No. 1-ranked recruiting in the nation. Stricklin was also hitting coach at Tech and worked for coach Danny Hall on The Flats in 1998-99 and 2002-04.
The Jackets were playing an NCAA regional game Saturday afternoon and Hall did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment. But he talked about Stricklin last year when Kent State knocked Florida out of the CWS.
“I think he’s one of the best assistant coaches I’ve ever had,” Hall said. “He was a great recruiter, a great evaluator and a great coach.”
Stricklin was also recruiting coordinator while at Vanderbilt and his final class with the Commodores was ranked No. 7 nationally.
Stricklin as star catcher for Kent State in the 1990s and graduated from the school magna cum laude in 1995 with a bachelor’s degree in marketing. He played five seasons of minor league ball before retiring in 1998 from the Tampa Bay Rays organization. He played Double-A ball with the Greenville Braves in 1996.
Stricklin and his wife Cheri have two daughters, Sydney (9) and Keaton (4), and son, Cale (7).
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