If the Mack Rhoades hire taught us anything, it’s that you don’t know everything you need to know about an athletic director simply by looking at a résumé or testimonials. So we’ll obviously have to wait and see how Jim Sterk fits as Rhoades replacement. But here are three things we’ve come to learn about Sterk in the last 16 hours or so, since news of his imminent hire broke.
1. San Diego State likes him a lot.
Steve Fisher, the basketball coach for 17 years at SDSU, proclaimed that keeping Sterk was vital to the school’s success.
"It’s absolutely critical that we keep him here. I think if you look at what he’s done, the way he’s done it, the resources and how it’s happened at every level and layer, you have to say he’s the central piece to the puzzle.
Football coach Rocky Long said the same.
“We hate to [see him] him leave because I think he’s a great athletic director and he did a great job here,” said SDSU head football coach Rocky Long, who was promoted by Sterk when Brady Hoke left for Michigan after the 2010 season. “But you can’t blame a guy for taking an opportunity like he’s getting. I hope that we can get someone even close to him, so that we can keep this thing going here at San Diego State.”
Both Fisher and Long have hit new strides in recent years. After reaching the NCAA Tournament just twice in Fisher’s first 10 seasons, the Aztecs have made it in six of the last seven years and have averaged 27.5 wins per year over the last eight. The football program, meanwhile, has been to six straight bowls and experienced a long-awaited breakthrough in 2015, going 11-3 with a conference title.
Sterk didn’t hire Fisher, and hiring Long was an obvious move after SDSU lost Brady Hoke to Michigan. (Long was Hoke’s defensive coordinator and had plenty of head coaching experience after a long tenure at New Mexico.) But hiring is only part of being an athletic director, and he seems to have aced the “giving your coaches the support they need” aspect of the job.
2. He will start on September 1.
Semi-awkward timing, being that football season begins two days later, but there wasn’t going to be a lot to do between now and then. (Well, assuming the Ehren Earleywine matter is finally finalized, which ... for all we know it never will be...) Sarah Reesman will remain Mizzou’s interim AD until then.
3. His hiring record isn’t the greatest (and that might not really matter).
The biggest black mark on his résumé is, by far, his hire of Paul Wulff when he was at Washington State. The Cougar program had hit a skid under Bill Doba (also a Sterk hire), and he stayed local in bringing in Eastern Washington’s Wulff to clean things up. Wulff crashed and burned in a spectacular way, going 5-32 in his first three seasons. That’s a Mizzou Basketball-level crash.
Of course, in theory, he won’t have to make a football hire for a while. If Barry Odom is worth his salt, and if Sterk gives Odom the support he needs, then that position is set for the foreseeable future. Baseball could be in the same boat. Obviously Sterk could be making a basketball hire in his first season, but we’ll cross that bridge later.
(A Wazzu friend, meanwhile, told me that Sterk probably doesn’t deserve just a ton of credit for hiring Tony Bennett to run the basketball program. That was easily Sterk’s best hire, but in a way that hire was forced on him by the retirement of Tony’s father Dick. And then he let Tony get away and go to Virginia.)
Then there’s the matter of learning your lesson. Wazzu Football indeed fell on hard times under Sterk, and WSU indeed lost Bennett to UVA. But that could have informed his decision-making in a way that made him better at his job at SDSU. We’ll see. Sterk certainly loves hiring coaching veterans (keep that in mind for next March, huh?), but all indications are that he is better at simply being an AD than he was when he left Pullman. Here’s to hoping, anyway.
Mizzou had not formally announced Sterk’s hire as of Monday night. Sterk’s hiring is subject to approval from the University System Board of Curators. The board announced a meeting for 5:30 p.m. Tuesday. After a call to order, the board will go into closed executive session for “consideration of certain confidential or privileged communications with university counsel, negotiated contracts and personnel matters all as authorized by law and upon approval by resolution of the Board of Curators,” the board announced Monday.
Sterk, 60, recently named AD of the year by National Association of College Directors of Athletics, was about to start his seventh year at San Diego State. He’s under contract there through June 30, 2020, with a base salary of $315,000.
Sterk, 60, has no obvious Missouri ties. He has spent the last six years at San Diego State after serving as athletic director at Washington State from 2000-10 and Portland State from 1995-2000. He is a native of Nooksack, Wash., and a graduate of Western Washington University.
One person familiar with Missouri’s current situation who knows Sterk said he believed the AD would be a good fit and described him as “not a flashy guy but very balanced, great experience, very ethical and really steady.”
Sterk’s hire, which was first reported by Bill Pollock of Missourinet, might mean his appointment to the Division I men’s basketball committee from May is withdrawn. The committee can’t include two members from the same conference, and Kentucky’s Mitch Barnhart, a native of Ottawa, Kan., was chosen to the committee along with Sterk.
San Diego State men’s basketball has sold out 72 consecutive games, while the football team went 11-3 last season, winning the season’s final 10 games and beating Cincinnati 42-7 in the Hawaii Bowl.
San Diego State has announced Sterk's resignation. He will take over as the Athletic Director at Missouri on September 1st.
“Jim has made extraordinary contributions to the success of SDSU’s athletics teams,” SDSU President Elliot Hirshman said in a release from the school. “I am grateful to Jim and his family for their service to the university community and wish them great success in their new endeavor.”
The athletics director has overseen the most successful period of time in San Diego State athletics history. Since the 2012-13 athletic year, 32 Aztec teams have won conference championships and 50 teams have made it to NCAA Championships.