Just some quick thoughts on WSU athletic director Jim Sterk reportedly leaving for San Diego State before we launch into today's basketball game.
This isn't going to be a requiem on what Sterk did or did not accomplish in his 10 years on the job; there will be plenty of time for that sort of reflection next week after the official announcement on Monday. This is more about initial reactions to something that, by all accounts, caught most everyone off guard.
First off, let's realize something: 10 years is a heck of a long time for anyone to stay in any job, and while I haven't done any exhaustive research, I think that's especially true of athletic directors. Sterk's been at WSU since 2000, and after a certain amount of time in any job, one starts to look for new challenges.
And make no mistake -- San Diego State is an attractive challenge. There are a lot of people who believe SDSU to be a bit of a sleeping giant as an athletic program. I mean ... it's San Diego. And this is a critical time for them. With the dominoes that are about to fall from the major conference realignment that is going to take place, SDSU needs to be prepared. That the Aztecs could pull a BCS conference insider to try and maximize their position in the mess is a major coup, no doubt.
What else might have caused Sterk to leave?
There have been rumors that he and university President Elson Floyd weren't necessarily each others' biggest fans. Vince Grippi insisted this morning that Sterk wasn't forced out and even offered an extension on his current deal (after the SDSU job came open), but rumors don't come from nowhere. If, indeed, there was tension, Sterk might have been ready for a change in order to work for a president he felt was fully behind him.
Beyond that, it's well documented what a constant uphill battle it is managing the minuscule (by BCS standards) athletics budget at WSU. There was a lot of optimism regarding Phase III, but the inability to get the commitments up to 80 percent in order to get construction going had to be a source of enormous frustration for Sterk. One has to wonder if he hadn't just finally had it up to his eyeballs with tightwad donors.
And while we all love Pullman, most of us subscribe to the theory that the best view of it is the one in our rearview mirror after we graduate. I love Pullman; I wouldn't trade my four years there for anything. But I also wouldn't want to live there. Sterk lived there for 10 years and now has the opportunity to work in San Diego? If everything -- or even most of what -- I wrote before is true, getting to move to a place like that is just icing on the cake.
So, how does this affect WSU?
From our perspective, the more I think about this, the more I think this comes at a perfect time. All of our coaches are locked in, none of the programs are in any kind of turmoil (unless you want to count the football program), most of our non-revenue programs are on the rise, and I think it became pretty clear that Sterk wasn't necessarily the best guy to lead the fundraising charge on Martin Stadium.
I'm never personally a fan of the hard sell, but sometimes a hard sell is required. Many of us were surprised when we learned of the fundraising restrictions placed on athletics in terms of contacting donors, and I can honestly say I always just assumed (until recently) that everything was hunky dory. It's not, and hasn't been for some time. Yet I've never sensed that this athletic administration has been as aggressive as it needs to be if things are as dire as they say.
Case in point. I went to the LSU basketball game in Seattle. They had a cool video about the Martin Stadium renovation that they showed about 20 or 30 minutes before tipoff. I posted a message to Twitter that said, "I wonder what the over/under is on that video? I'll go ahead and put it at 3 1/2."
That was the only time we saw the video.
And it seemed like that was the general message to donors, at least publicly, over the last decade. Sort of a, "Hey, we need your money, you know, if you feel like giving it, because, you know, we need more and stuff. But we don't want you to feel pressured, you know, because it's your money ..."
So, while I appreciate everything Sterk has done over the past 10 years -- especially when contrasted with everything Rick Dickson didn't do before him -- it's probably the right time for a change. We need an athletic director who's going to go out there and pry those checkbooks out of people's pockets. Phase III must move forward, and it must move forward quickly. I believe that requires a different kind of personality than Sterk.
Expect Floyd to go after an experienced athletic director whose specialty is raising money, and expect it to be someone from outside WSU. I would kill for it to be Bill Moos, but that noncompete clause from Oregon is going to be a stumbling block. However, it's not completely prohibitive, and if Floyd wants him, I'll bet he gets him.
Sometimes, a change is a win-win for all parties involved. I think this is just that sort of case.