Campus Corner

Mizzou AD Jim Sterk updates NCAA investigation among other topics

University of Missouri athletic director Jim Sterk watched the Tigers head into the locker room after MU lost to the Kentucky Wildcats 35-21 on Saturday, Oct. 28, 2016.
University of Missouri athletic director Jim Sterk watched the Tigers head into the locker room after MU lost to the Kentucky Wildcats 35-21 on Saturday, Oct. 28, 2016. along@kcstar.com

Missouri’s investigation into alleged academic fraud stemming from a former tutor’s confession remains in the NCAA’s hands and may remain there for a few months.

“I don’t have really any update on it,” Tigers athletic director Jim Sterk said. “I don’t have anything new to report there. It’s continuing, and that’s kind of … the ball’s in their court as far as where it’s at. … But I think now it may be later this fall. By the end of this calendar year, hopefully we’re done with that, but I don’t know.”

Mizzou has not self-imposed any sanctions stemming from its investigation after Yolanda Kumar said she performed coursework, including taking some tests for student-athletes, in her role with the Total Person Program.

As MU awaits final word from the NCAA, it hasn’t waited to institute some changes.

“It’s made us look at what are our best practices with online courses and things like that,” Sterk said. “We actually had good dialogue with our Intercollegiate Athletics Committee and talking to folks on campus. There’s some very healthy things that have resulted from this.”

He’s not ready to detail some of the departmental changes, but hopes Mizzou can become a model for how to handle student-athlete/tutor relationships moving forward.

“I don’t want to get into specifics, but when this is all done we’ll be able to say, ‘Here are the things we are doing as part of that and the learning experience,’” Sterk said. “It will probably help people across the country that this is probably the best standard to have.”

Anderson was offered job at Mizzou

After deciding to fire Kim Anderson as Missouri’s men’s basketball coach, Sterk said he offered him a role within the department — a nod to the personal respect he had for Anderson and his stature with the program as a former Big Eight player of the year and assistant coach under Norm Stewart.

“It’s never fun to let someone go, especially someone as quality an individual as Kim Anderson,” Sterk said.

Opting instead to continue his coaching career, Anderson turned down the offer and instead was hired as Pittsburg State’s men’s basketball coach a few weeks later.

“He told me when we sat down that he wanted to coach again and he’s getting up there, so he needed to do it right away as opposed to maybe working in the department,” Sterk said.

He’s glad Anderson is getting that chance with the Gorillas, who are in the same Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association as Central Missouri — the program Anderson led to an NCAA Division II championship in 2014.

“That worked out, and I’m really glad for that,” Sterk said.

He also doesn’t expect he’s heard the last from Anderson.

“He will be the alum that will call me at some point in time and grip,” Sterk said with a laugh. “He joked about it when we were talking.”

Sterk lauded Anderson’s character in the dialogue they had around the decision to replace him as the Tigers’ coach.

Sterk excited for 2017-18

Understandably, Sterk is excited about the Memorial Stadium South Expansion project, which was approved Friday by the University of Missouri System Board of Curators.

But that’s not the only thing he’s pumped about when looking forward to the 2017-18 athletic year.

“Football, I’m very optimistic about where we’re headed there,” Sterk said. “We’re going to be a very entertaining team and it’s going to be a fun fall, I think.”

He has previously indicated that he expects the Tigers to be a bowl team and points to last season’s strong finish as evidence that the team’s trajectory is headed in the right direction.

“You saw the team mature and (second-year coach) Barry (Odom) got them to win two out of three down the stretch after the start wasn’t very good,” Sterk said. “That helps me be very optimistic about where we are headed.”

Obviously, he’s also excited about Mizzou men’s basketball, which underwent a transformative offseason.

Sterk hired Cuonzo Martin to replace Anderson and the dominoes that fell after have positioned the Tigers for a monumental rebound.

“With basketball, being able to get the guy we really wanted was important,” Sterk said

Martin hired former MU women’s basketball assistant Michael Porter Sr., who spent last season on Lorenzo Romar’s staff at Washington.

Shortly after that, one of the nation’s top prospects, Columbia’s own Michael Porter Jr., signed with the Tigers, triggering an avalanche of commitments.

Point guard Blake Harris also signed.

Combo guard C.J. Roberts decided to stick with Mizzou.

Kassius Robertson decided to transfer from Canisius as a graduate student.

Jeremiah Tilmon picked Missouri after receiving his release from Illinois.

Finally, Porter Jr.’s younger brother, Jontay Porter, decided to graduate high school early and join the rebuilt Tigers as well.

The last signing wasn’t a shock to Sterk, but it was a relief.

“It’s probably been a while (that I’ve known), but you never know until it’s absolutely done,” a beaming Sterk said. “Something could have come up to change his mind, but I felt for quite a while that was going to occur.”

Sterk is equally excited to have senior distance star Karissa Schweizer — who swept the distance Triple Crown at NCAA nationals last season, winning the cross country title and also claiming the indoor and outdoor 5,000-meter championships.

“She’s special and back,” Sterk said. “I love that — that she’s back.”

He hopes Mizzou athletics is poised for more transcendent moments during the upcoming year.

“It was pretty neat when I was able to give Wayne Kreklow the SEC trophy,” Sterk said of last year’s conference title for volleyball.

He’d relish the chance to do it again.

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