New Missouri athletic director Jim Sterk (right), pictured here during his tenure at San Diego State, will take over at Mizzou on August 22.
Christopher Hanewinckel/Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODA
COLUMBIA, Mo. — New athletic director Jim Sterk did not shy away from addressing the social issues that have beset the Missouri campus the last 12 months, saying Thursday that he wants to foster an "inclusive, diverse and successful" environment.
"I have a fresh start," Sterk said. "We’re not a campus of turmoil. Obviously in every place, there’s issues, but I feel very good about this as a place that I can be a part of. I can help, and we can help grow and heal and move forward, and I’m excited about that."
Interim Chancellor Hank Foley introduced Sterk and his wife, Debra, to a room of Tiger faithful that included former football coach Gary Pinkel and current coach Barry Odom.
Sterk replaces Mack Rhoades, whose tenure lasted just 15 months. It was marked by campus upheaval that resulted in the removal of the university system president and chancellor following student protests, including a prominent promise of a boycott from members of the football team, a stance Pinkel supported. Rhoades is taking over at Baylor.
In his opening remarks, Sterk called Missouri a "destination" job, stressing a long-term commitment to the program.
"I’m excited to represent the flagship institution of the great state of Missouri," said Sterk, a 1980 graduate of Western Washington whose wife is a Missouri native. "We don’t jump around. That’s not us. We made this decision to stay here long-term, and so I have no intention of leaving."
Sterk served as athletic director at Portland State from 1995-2000 and at Washington State from 2000-2010 before stepping into the same position at San Diego State. His official start date is Aug. 22.
Foley led the search for Rhoades’ replacement in conjunction with the Collegiate Sports Associates search firm.
"In thinking about this hire, I looked for people who would tell me that Jim’s reputation was too good to be true, but to honest I couldn’t find them," Foley said. "Instead, I’ve heard words like ‘highly seasoned,’ ‘inordinate passion,’ ‘uniquely gifted.’ All the attributes of a prudent athletic and academic leader."
Sterk is regarded as an exceptional fundraiser, having more than doubled San Diego State’s athletic scholarship fund during his seven-year tenure with the school.
"I’m so excited about what his plans are leadership-wise," said Odom. "The decisions that we make are going to affect this place for a long time, and I’m glad to have a partnership with him that will work well, and get started."
Sterk was named 2016 AD of the year by the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics and holds a seat on the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Committee. However, he revealed Thursday he will have to vacate that seat. Kentucky’s Mitch Barnhart already holds a seat on the committee, and per NCAA rules, only one representative from each conference may occupy a seat on the committee at a time.