Missouri athletic director Jim Sterk is stepping down, the university announced on Monday night. 

Sterk had been the Tigers’ athletic department leader since 2016, taking over for Mack Rhoades, who left for Baylor. 

“We are grateful for the dedicated leadership Jim has provided over the last five years to position Mizzou for even greater success,” University of Missouri President Mun Choi said via news release. “We recognize his many contributions and appreciate his continued role as we search for the next leader of Mizzou Athletics.

“We now begin a national search for a visionary athletics director who will develop a strategic plan for Mizzou to achieve exceptional success in the SEC and to navigate a bold path in the rapidly evolving world of collegiate athletics.” 

Sterk’s legacy with Missouri still has large pieces yet to be written, as he hired Eli Drinkwitz and Cuonzo Martin as the school’s head football and men’s basketball coaches during his tenure. 

Sterk also hired softball coach Larissa Anderson and head volleyball coach Joshua Taylor in his time as athletic director. Both teams have made multiple postseason appearances under Sterk’s watch. 

“I am grateful for the hard work of our amazing staff, coaches and student-athletes, as well as the generous support of our alumni and friends during my tenure as athletics director,” Sterk said via news release. “I believe that Mizzou Athletics is well positioned for future success, and I wish our coaches and student-athletes well in their continued quest for academic and athletic excellence. MIZ.”

Jim Sterk hired Eli Drinkwitz and Cuonzo Martin as the school’s head football and men’s basketball coaches during his tenure as AD at Mizzou.
SUBMITTED PHOTO

Sterk, 65, was the 20th athletics director for the University of Missouri and led the progress of new facilities, fundraising and increased academic and athletic success.

Missouri football’s $98M South End Zone Facility opened in the summer of 2019, and ground is scheduled to be broken in the fall of 2021 on a new $34 million indoor football practice facility that will be located southwest of Memorial Stadium.

During Sterk’s tenure, 18 of Mizzou’s 20 programs made at least one postseason appearance, a period which also produced seven individual NCAA championships and 11 conference team titles.

Sterk’s contract ran through 2023, still part of his original seven-year deal for $700,00 per year. It is unclear at this time whether he’s retiring. 

Missouri should attract a strong candidate pool to replace Sterk, with several Division-I athletic directors, including North Texas’ Wren Baker and Louisiana’s Bryan Maggard, having ties to the school. 

Sterk’s departure comes 16 months after the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, which caused hundreds of changes for the athletic department. 

There’s also conference realignment and name, image and likeness laws being passed around the country, evolving the college athletics landscape. 

Prior to his arrival in Columbia, Sterk served as the athletic director at San Diego State for five years. 

Sterk came to San Diego from Washington State, where he served as athletics director from 2000-10. He was also the athletics director at Portland State from 1995-2000, where he oversaw the Vikings’ transition from NCAA Division II to the Division-I level.

Before becoming the Tigers’ athletic director, Sterk had never worked in Columbia before. He graduated from Western Washington University in 1980, after playing football and basketball for the NAIA school.

In 2010, Sterk was inducted into Western Washington’s Athletics Hall of Fame.

Sterk’s status as athletic director came into question once before, in February, when he was linked with taking the same role at Central Florida. 

UCF president Alex Cartwright served as Missouri’s chancellor from 2017-2020 and was Sterk’s direct supervisor. Sterk addressed the speculation at the time, denying any interest and the Knights ended up hiring former Arkansas State athletic director Terry Mohajir.

COLUMBIA DAILY TRIBUNE

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