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Former Mizzou athletic director filling vacant WWU position

Whatcom native Jim Sterk replacing retired Steve Card

Former Missouri Athletic Director Jim Sterk stands along the sideline during a November 2019 game at Memorial Stadium in Columbia
Former Missouri Athletic Director Jim Sterk stands along the sideline during a November 2019 game at Memorial Stadium in Columbia
By Connor J. Benintendi Sports Editor

Former University of Missouri Director of Athletics Jim Sterk is set to take over the vacant position at Western Washington University, his alma mater, the university announced June 14.

Sterk, 67, a Nooksack Valley High School and 1980 Western graduate, worked at Mizzou from 2016–21 before he and the university mutually parted ways in July 2021.

He will become Western’s seventh athletic director in its 109-year history, replacing Steve Card, who retired at the end of March after leading Western’s athletics department from 2013–2023.

“I want to thank President [Sabah] Randhawa and the search committee for placing the trust in me to become the next Director of Athletics at Western Washington University,” Sterk said in the release. 

“My journey in college athletics began at Western and I am proud the next chapter in my career will be as the leader in a department that is defined by excellence, both in academics and competition,” he continued. “The sustainable base that has been built by the student-athletes, coaches and staff, and two great athletic directors, Lynda Goodrich and Steve Card, made this a very appealing position.”

During his Mizzou tenure, Sterk was credited with overseeing “the best fundraising year in the athletic department’s history,” a reported $55.5 million, and being involved in key coaching hires, such as Larissa Anderson (softball) and Eli Drinkwitz (football).

“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 in a July 2021 statement about his departure from Mizzou. “I believe that Mizzou Athletics is well positioned for future success.”

In 2018, Sterk was the target of a defamation lawsuit brought forth by Dawn Staley — the women’s basketball coach at the University of South Carolina — that was settled out of court. 

He previously served as the director of athletics at San Diego State University (2010–2016), Washington State University (2000–2010) and Portland State University (1995–2000). Sterk was named the NCAA Division I National Athletic Director of the Year in 2015–16.

At Portland State, Sterk successfully transitioned the Vikings from the NCAA’s Division II to Division I, where they remain today.

He was a 2010 inductee into the Western Athletics Hall of Fame, still holding the single-season tackles record with 164 in 1977 for the since-defunct football program. Following his time at Western as a student-athlete, Sterk went on to complete a Master of Science in sports administration at Ohio University.

Sterk’s professional career also has included administrative positions at North Carolina, Maine, Seattle Pacific and Tulane. He is expected to begin remotely on July 5 before arriving on Western’s campus in early August.

This story was updated to include additional information at 11:59 a.m. June 14, 2023. 

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