The University of Missouri is searching for a new leader of athletics as the school and current AD Jim Sterk mutually agreed that he will step down from his post when a replacement is decided. The exit comes almost two years ahead of his contract’s expiration on June 30, 2023.
The official announcement comes on the heels of the five-year mark of Sterk’s tenure at the helm of Mizzou athletics. He oversaw eight head coaching hires since his arrival in August 2016, including men’s basketball head coach Cuonzo Martin in March 2017, softball head coach Larissa Anderson in May 2018 and football head coach Eliah Drinkwitz in Dec. 2019.
“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. “We recognize his many contributions and appreciate his continued role as we search for the next leader of Mizzou Athletics.”
In his time at Mizzou, Sterk’s ability to draw donor support was impressive. The athletics department set a single-year Tiger Scholarship Fund record in fiscal year 2021 with a $55 million sum, breaking the previous mark set under Sterk’s guidance in fiscal year 2017 by $5 million.
Sterk also made sure that money translated to improved facilities. A $98 million renovation on Memorial Stadium’s South End Zone Facility was completed ahead of the 2019 football season, and plans are set to begin a new $34 million indoor football practice facility this fall.
Mizzou student-athletes broke the single-semester GPA record six times within Sterk’s tenure, most recently with an overall 3.44 mark in the spring of 2020. 18 of Mizzou’s 20 athletic programs qualified for postseason play in 2020-21, and the school won 11 conference titles and seven individual NCAA championship titles 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. “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.”
Regardless of who is determined to fill the vacancy, Mizzou’s 21st athletic director will assume the position underneath unprecedented NIL guidelines for student-athletes and a transforming conference landscape. The SEC recently announced that the University of Oklahoma and the University of Texas formally applied for entry into the conference in 2025 when the broadcast rights deal for the Big 12 Conference expired on June 30. 11 of the SEC’s 14 member institutions must approve their entrance to formalize it, which would have seismic revenue implications for college athletics.
While more lucrative days may be ahead, Mizzou athletics had to bear the brunt of budget cuts this past year. As a part of Governor Mike Parson’s statewide budget cuts in 2020, Mizzou athletics lost $16.5 million in funding, a massive chunk of the $27 million gap that the University of Missouri was forced to operate without. About $5 million of the $16.5 million sum took the form of layoffs, furloughs and salary reductions, which came ahead of a year in which attendance across all athletics was marred by capacity restrictions due to COVID-19.