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San Diego State AD Jim Sterk accepts job at Missouri, follows the money

Under Sterk's watch, San Diego State has the nation's third-highest combined winning percentage in football and men's basketball (75.2) this decade, trailing only Ohio State and Louisville.

Howard Lipin / San Diego Union-Tribune

Jim Sterk, San Diego State's athletic director since February 2010, has resigned to take the same position at the University of Missouri, starting Sept. 1, San Diego State announced Monday. Sterk, 60, will succeed Mack Rhoades, who resigned last month to take over at Baylor, effective Sept. 1.

Jenny Bramer, executive associate athletic director, has been named Sterk's interim replacement at SDSU.

Jim Sterk's stock skyrocketed after he was named one of the NCAA's top four Division I athletic directors earlier this year, and then was added to the powerful NCAA men's basketball committee.

Sterk has, apparently, sold that stock to the University of Missouri, which was drawn to his accolades, including his coveted seat on the NCAA Tourney Selection Committee.

Everybody at San Diego State agrees the timing of his departure could not be worse, given that the 2016-2017 season is slated to be San Diego State's best- perhaps ever.

Under contract at San Diego State through June 30, 2020 Jim Sterk earned a base salary of $315,000 plus $75,000 in incentives.  Mizzou allegedly offered $750,000 plus incentives.

It has happened before to SDSU: the big guys came knocking.  They made an offer Sterk wouldn't refuse, and in the course of a few weeks he will be gone.

San Diego State University has experienced the extraction of talented staff before.  Perhaps, until the university seats itself in a Power 5 conference, the raiders will continue to feast on SDSU's best resources "like senior citizens at a Golden Corral."

Seemingly lost to posterity is that we have seen Power 5 monies and pressure place great people in bad situations before.

Case in point, former celebrated SDSU football coach Brady Hoke went to Michigan where he found himself in such pressure that in the middle of a high profile game, he returned a concussed quarterback to the field.  Right on national television.  The epic lapse of judgment defined him in his last days at Michigan.

We are presently watching Steve Alford, former celebrated New Mexico Lobos basketball coach being flayed alive by UCLA students and alumni who clearly have not granted Alford enough time to build a proper Bruins program.

A move to the University of Missouri may also prove tumultuous.  Last year, President Tom Wolfe was forced to resign after student protestors cited racial bias, and threatened to boycott a high profile football game against BYU -- which would have cost the university $1 million in penalties.

Pressure to perform from day one, with such a climate could give Jim Sterk a chance to shine even more brightly, or struggle with distractions unique to the university.

At San Diego State, Jim Sterk did set the bar very high.  On Jim Sterk's watch, SDSU has the nation's third-highest combined winning percentage in football and men's basketball (75.2) this decade, trailing only Ohio State and Louisville.

Working in a pro sports town that also supports an NFL franchise and Major League Baseball, Sterk has helped build a popular following for the Aztecs' high-profile teams. Steve Fisher's men's basketball program has drawn 72 consecutive home sellouts, and football has won its last 10 games while cracking preseason Top 25 lists.

Nineteen of the 20 programs at San Diego State registered best-ever team GPAs with Sterk as AD.

"Jim has made extraordinary contributions to the success of SDSU's athletics teams," San Diego State University President Elliot Hirshman said.  "I am grateful to Jim and his family for their service to the university community and wish them great success in their new endeavor."

"We hate to see him leave because I think he's a great athletic director and he did a great job here. I hope that we can get someone even close to him, so that we can keep this thing going here at San Diego State," said SDSU head football coach Rocky Long.

Sterk is a big picture guy.  He declared that the Aztecs crave a big-money, big-stage seat in a Power 5 conference.  The progress made during his era, will go down in SDSU sports history as a pivotal moment where the Aztecs realized they could indeed take their program to the highest level, if the right approach is taken.

In what will be the post-Sterk era, SDSU is now seriously contemplating a joint MLS venture to construct a football stadium, a move that would better position the university to join a Power 5 conference.

San Diego State reported earlier this year that Sterk's department raised a record $5.2 million for its scholarship fund last year and $16 million for endowed scholarships. SDSU also completed funding for a $15.8 million basketball facility.

San Diego State truly owes a debt of gratitude to Jim Sterk for a job well done, and the university will strive for his legacy to live on through the appointment of a worthy successor.  Big shoes must be filled.

Despite the anguish felt by students, faculty and alumni everywhere who truly understood the impact that Jim Sterk made during his years at San Diego State University, we must all take a moment to realize and appreciate that he left San Diego State University better off than he found it, with a promising future.