Missouri made the hiring of Jim Sterk as the school’s new athletic director official Tuesday when the university system’s Board of Curators approved his contract at a special meeting.
After emerging from the brief closed-door executive session, MU interim chancellor Hank Foley said, “I’m very happy to report that the board has, in fact, approved the contract for Jim Sterk and Jim will indeed be the next athletic director at the University of Missouri.”
Sterk agreed to a seven-year contract through June 30, 2023, with a base salary of $500,000. It includes an additional $200,000 in guaranteed annual compensation plus incentives worth up to $150,000 more.
During the contract term, Sterk — who will be introduced at 11 a.m. Thursday at a news conference in the Columns Club at Memorial Stadium in Columbia — also is entitled to $150,000 per year in deferred compensation, making the potential total value of the contract $1 million annually.
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Sterk’s agreement also includes a $1.4 million buyout that goes down by $200,000 with each year of employment at Mizzou. He will assume his new role with the Tigers on or before Sept. 1.
Sterk succeeds Mack Rhoades, who resigned July 13 to become the athletic director at Baylor.
Sterk’s colleagues say Missouri hit a home run with the hire.
“Mizzou really picked a winner, a really terrific person, and he’ll be great for that university,” UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero said.
Guerrero developed a relationship with Sterk in the pre-expansion-era Pac-10, when Sterk served as Washington State’s athletic director from 2000 to 2010.
“Jim has always had a certain sense of leadership that is the kind people rally around, both within the department and externally,” said Guerrero, who is the chairman of the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Oversight Committee. “He is a strong leader, will create a lot of stability and will win over a lot of fans in a very short period of time.”
Guerrero cited Sterk’s selection for the Division I men’s basketball committee in May — a position, Guerrero confirmed, that likely will be withdrawn because Kentucky’s Mitch Barnhart also was appointed to the committee and only one is permitted per conference — as proof of his stature and the respect he has professionally.
Texas A&M athletic director Scott Woodward — who was lured away from Washington, where he’d been since 2008, in January — also worked with Sterk in the old Pac-10 days and championed the hire.
“They sure got a good guy in Jim Sterk,” Woodward said. “The university is very lucky to have him. I know he’s glad, I’m sure, to be at Missouri. To me, just looking at it at a glance, it looks like a very good fit.”
Woodward is eager to work with Sterk again in a new setting.
“When I think of Jim Sterk, I think of a guy with very high integrity and very good values,” Woodward said. “Jim and I worked closely together and — in most situations, except when you’re on the field of play — you work collaboratively together. The good of the whole is what you’re after. Jim was always in that frame of mind. I really look forward to working with Jim in the Southeastern Conference.”
San Diego State interim athletic director Jenny Bramer, who is in her 13th season with the Aztecs, also sang Sterk’s praises.
“He’s genuinely nice, which is good in working for him, but it’s also good in his decision-making,” Bramer said. “We make a lot of decisions at San Diego State that are good for student-athletes. They may not be the flashiest or a keep-up-with-Joneses approach, but they are right for the student-athletes. That’s a credit to him and his concern for student-athlete welfare.”
Athletic department fundraising reached an all-time high at San Diego State during Sterk’s tenure — including construction of the $15.8 million Jeff Jacobs J.A.M. Center, a practice facility for men’s and women’s basketball.
Sterk also help implement the Coryell Legacy, a scholarship endowment program, that raised $16 million and also helped fund upgrades to locker room and strength and conditioning facilities.
Aztec athletics also more than doubled its fundraising total for athletic scholarships to $5.6 million last year under Sterk’s guidance.
Bramer, who also spent time at Oklahoma, says Sterk “will be fantastic in that setting” at Mizzou and in the SEC.
“I think he’s going to be a little different,” she said. “He is not a win-at-all-costs guy, but he still wins.”
Since Sterk’s arrival, only Ohio State and Louisville have a better combined winning percentage in football and men’s basketball than San Diego State, which won 32 conference titles during his tenure.
Guerrero was impressed with the job Sterk did at Washington State and thinks he can replicate the success he’s had there (and at San Diego State) during his tenure at Mizzou.
“I think there are a lot of parallels in many respects,” Guerrero said. “When you start to compare institutions within a given conference, there clearly are institutions that, however you define it, have an edge over other institutions. Certainly, the fact that Washington State was not in a metropolitan community and did not have the level of resources that some other institutions had made it very challenging for Jim. Yet he kept those programs in Pullman competitive and made some terrific hires.”
Woodward also forecasts the Tigers as an athletic department on the rise.
“When you have a guy who’s very competent and has high integrity, your chances are good you’re going to be successful,” Woodward said. “That’s Jim Sterk to a T.”