Though he hasn’t had nearly as much direct experience with college athletics as two of Florida State’s three most recent presidents, president-elect Richard McCullough said Monday he’s making up for lost time.
McCullough, who was one of three finalists for the position before receiving a unanimous vote from FSU’s Board of Trustees Monday afternoon, explained that he has already been reading offseason articles about the Seminoles’ football team and also has been watching each of the spring sports programs.
“I’m a huge sports fan,” McCullough said. “I’m already following it.”
McCullough currently serves as Vice Provost for Research at Harvard University, and before that he held a similar position at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.
As a student, the Dallas native received his bachelor’s degree in chemistry from the University of Texas-Dallas and his master’s and Ph.D. in chemistry from Johns Hopkins University. He did his postdoctoral fellowship at Columbia University.
But while he hasn’t spent a great deal of time around big-time college athletics, McCullough said he is fully aware of its importance at a major public university.
“It’s one of the most exciting parts of the job, to be honest with you,” he told the Trustees during his Monday interview. “I would bring leadership to this like I would bring leadership to anything else. Working with the athletic director like you would work with the deans. I think you have to be involved, talking with the coaches like department heads.”
McCullough attributed the Seminoles’ athletic tradition with being at the root of much of the pride he has experienced when talking with FSU constituents during the interview process. And he noted how that leads to benefits in so many areas, from donor contributions to increased competition in admissions.
“You can’t buy that (pride),” McCullough said. “I don’t care how much money you invest in that, you cannot create that.”
McCullough’s predecessor, John Thrasher, was an FSU graduate and avid Seminole sports fan long before he took office.
The same could be said — and then some — for former FSU President T.K. Wetherell, who actually played football at FSU in the 1960s and was president from 2003-10.
McCullough’s background is more similar to that of Eric Barron, who was a distinguished scientist before serving as FSU’s president from 2010-14 — between Wetherell and Thrasher.
But McCullough said he is already devouring all the information he can on Seminole athletics. He said he was reading articles about FSU football recruiting at his hotel Monday morning.
“We need to put more pressure on the quarterback this year, and the O-Line needs to be shored up,” McCullough said. “We got the guy from Notre Dame (transfer Dillan Gibbons), and there’s another one that might be coming.”
McCullough’s hiring still must be approved by Florida’s Board of Governors, although that is viewed as a formality.