Story by Sean McDowell ’22
It’s a beautiful spring day, the sun is brightly beating down on the open campus of Marist College, students hanging out on the green, the cracks of the bat from baseball practice, and the repeating whistle from the spring football drills are heard throughout the campus. Everything is running smoothly at Marist, as it does most days, and the reason for that can be credited to the work of one man.
A man who just finished painting the field at Tenney Stadium for the 300th time in his life, who walks a certain pattern each time which allows him to head down to the softball field to rake the field before the team’s double-header, then head back to the McCann Center to take down the volleyball set up so the basketball players can shoot around.
Just another day in the life, running around campus moving from field to field, court to court to assure everything from equipment, to the lines on the field, to the microphones in the booth are on point and running smoothly.
He shows up to work every day around seven in the morning and puts his usual lunch of a mixed meats sandwich, a fruit cup, and a bag of chips away before starting his day. The development of a routine that he has followed throughout his career at Marist has allowed him to be able to work efficiently while having a heavy workload and a short-handed staff.
He has been using the same methods that he learned back in 1992 when he started at Marist grounds. Methods that were passed down to him, such as the most efficient pattern to walk when painting the fields, how to take down and put up a basketball hoop, how to build shelving for team closets, and so much more. He passes on these efficient methods of working to college student workers and colleagues at Marist, not only to be able to work successfully at the school, but in life.
This knowledgeable, determined, hard-working man, with a very nice mustache, is the heart and soul of Marist College athletics. Randy “The Stache” Strickland has been the head of athletic operations at Marist for over 20 years and is a big reason the athletic programs and clubs have fields to play on and equipment in place.
He started as a member of the grounds crew in 1992 doing maintenance and landscaping work not only for the McCann Arena but around the entire campus. Doing work such as painting the fields for soccer and football, setting up the arena for basketball and volleyball, and fixing up any maintenance issues throughout all the facilities on campus. Strickland began to climb up the ladder and was awarded the title of Operations Manager in 2002.
Strickland’s hard work often goes unseen and without recognition, which leaves many to wonder how he is able to do it. It truly is a plate full of work when you look at the everyday schedule, as things need to be done on time before practices, games, and other events. Additionally, many of the teams at Marist often share the field and locker room, which is not common for other Division I programs and bigger schools that have multiple fields and facilities per team, adding to the load Strickland handles on a daily basis.
Assistant Athletic Director for Facilities & Operations of Marist College, Darren McCormack, spoke about the work that Strickland and the operations crew have to get done to ensure that teams are meeting the standard for Division I sports. McCormack touched on how the athletic operations crew run by Strickland can make the athletes feel like they have their own field, whether it is changing out the equipment for the teams or fixing the lines on the field.
“We have a smaller school and facilities compared to our sports teams’ opponents, so it requires a lot of effort to keep the fields, locker rooms, and facilities up to par, and Randy’s hard work allows us to keep up with other schools,” McCormack said. “Randy is a better person than he is a worker, and he is a great hard working man. He has a personality that everyone at Marist is drawn to, which allows his student workers to respect him and the work that needs to be done, as well as the athletes, students, and staff members at Marist.”
Strickland’s passion for the students and the school to be successful is not only seen through his work done for the college but through his connection to the Marist community. Known as “The Stash” around campus, from his very large and nicely shaven mustache, it seems as if almost all of the staff and students that are around the McCann Center know him.
James Lyons, who wrapped up his senior season on the Marist men’s lacrosse team last year, has built a close relationship with Strickland through the years and mentioned how much effort Strickland puts into trying to give Marist’s athletes a true Division I experience.
“I remember there was a weekend where Marist had a football game, a rugby game, and a soccer game in a two-day span,” Lyons said about the Marist alumni weekend. “He had to work the set up for the tents on the main green, the football game, as well as the set up the MAAC signs for the soccer game.”
That fall weekend went beautifully as the football game at Tenney Stadium began with a packed house filled with alumni. Tenney was later transformed into a booming playoff soccer field. It is known that not many of the programs have a lot of funding at Marist, but Strickland is able to do his best with what they have.
“The athletes who have spent hours in training, practicing, studying, and working hard to get to this point in their life, and seeing their faces when their name is on the locker and they get to walk out on the newly painted field, makes me happy and is what keeps me going,” Strickland said. “The work is hard and yes very tedious sometimes, but I have allowed myself to get into a rhythm of how I operate, especially during the more busy seasons.”
He spoke about how often he would get frustrated and overwhelmed due to the workload and having inconsistent work hands, but it does not stop him.
“It pays off because I am not the only one working hard. We have so many people in the athletic department that do their share for the success of our teams, and it allows the kids to get the full experience of being a Division I athlete,” Strickland added.
When you think of an athletic program that has had team success year in and year out, much of the recognition goes to the coaching, commits and players, and athletic directors. The unseen dirty work done by members of the athletic operations crew, the glue to a community like Marist, is the most crucial.
Randy Strickland is the heart and soul of Marist College Athletics and the reason why it is still able to operate the way it does and allow players and coaches to reach their maximum potential to succeed. His outgoing attitude, his passion for the school, and his care for people represent what the Marist community is all about.
Edited by Jonathan Kinane and Isabella Cicinelli
Photo from Jonathan Kinane