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Mizzou to part ways with Sterk, starting search for replacement

Missouri athletic director Jim Sterk will be leaving the university’s department, ending a five-year run that included two high-profile sports hires as the school continued to established its roots in the Southeastern Conference.  In addition to the hires of Cuonzo Martin and Eli Drinkwitz, Sterk’s tenure will be remembered for times of school-wide social unrest, millions of dollars in facilities upgrades.

The school said in a statement Monday that the 65-year-old Sterk had “mutually agreed” to part ways with Missouri once a nationwide search identifies the Tigers’ next athletic director. The leadership change comes amid a major landscape shift in college sports, where athletes can now benefit from their image and likeness and conferences could soon realign.

In 2017, Sterk faced the first major hire of his time at Mizzou, just one year after moving to Columbia from San Diego State University, where he had been athletic director for the Aztecs.  After the firing of alum Kim Anderson after three unsuccessful seasons, Cuonzo Martin was hired.  With just two trips to the NCAA Tournament in his first five years, Martin’s task of moving to the Tigers to the upper echelon of the SEC remains, at best, a “work in progress”.

In a similar decision to that of basketball, Sterk chose to fire the embattled alum Barry Odom after the 2019 football season, subsequently hiring Appalachian State’s Eliah Drinkwitz.  In the 2020 COVID-19 affected season, Mizzou went a respectable 5-5 in an all-SEC 10-game season.  Early signs remain promising, particularly with a strong recruiting class beginning to surface for the 2022 class.

In the ultra-competitive world of the SEC, Sterk kept Mizzou athletics moving forward, with completed projects including a a $98 million south end zone facility that opened in the summer of 2019, with ground scheduled to be broken this fall on a $34 million indoor practice facility that will be located southwest of Memorial Stadium.

Photo credit – Stevehrowe2 / Wikimedia Commons / Columbia, MO