PULLMAN,Wash. — Washington State University President V. Lane Rawlins announced today that James M. Sterk has been appointed WSU’s new athletic director. He is expected to take over the position in early July.
Sterk, who currently holds the athletic director position at Portland State University, is a Washington native.
“Jim Sterk has the effective leadership, planning and development skills to put Cougar athletics on a fast track of upward momentum,” President Rawlins said.
“In five years as PSU athletic director, he has transformed Viking athletics through partnerships with the city and private donors,” the president said. “He improved athletic facilities, increased scholarship support for student athletes and led a program with winning teams. Earlier, at Tulane University, he handled the budget, marketing and fund raising for a well-known NCAA Division I program.
“Jim’s extensive background in athletic administration, combined with his love of the Northwest, makes him a first-rate choice for WSU’s next athletic director,” Rawlins said.
Search committee chair Ken Casavant, who also chairs the WSU Athletic Council, said the committee is excited about Sterk’s appointment.
“We feel Jim brings with him the total package that is needed for our new athletic director,” Casavant said. “He has knowledge of the Northwest, managerial expertise, and a passion and commitment to making and reestablishing the connections with all our alumni, Cougar supporters and friends on which WSU depends.”
WSU alumnus Bill Moos, athletic director for the University of Oregon, echoed support for Sterk’s selection.
“I think Jim is an outstanding choice to lead WSU’s intercollegiate athletics program,” Moos said. “I have watched the great things he has accomplished at Portland State and I look forward to working with him in the Pac-10. His dedication will serve WSU well.”
Sterk, 44, came to PSU from Tulane, where he had been the athletic department’s primary fund-raiser. During his time at Tulane, he helped recruit 3,200 new donors and raised an additional $8.6 million — a 400 percent increase — in gifts and pledges. At PSU, he guided the school’s move from NCAA Division II to Division I and the Big Sky Conference. Annual contributions to the school’s Viking Club have doubled during his leadership. He, too, assisted in the $37 million development of Portland’s Civic Stadium, home for PSU football.
Mentor and friend Kevin White, athletic director at Notre Dame, said the WSU position is a perfect fit for Sterk.
“Quite frankly, his dream job has always been to lead the WSU program,” said White. “Jim is highly skilled and very determined. Couple that with his unfailing passion for the Cougars and you have a wonderful recipe for great success.”
Big Sky Commissioner Doug Fullerton, too, supports WSU’s choice for athletic director.
“Jim is a bright, young athletic director who’s done a great job in the Big Sky Conference. He was able to guide Portland State through a tough time during the transition from Division II to Division I.
“Jim has always been an athletic director that has had a clear vision of where he wanted to take his institution and we’re (the Big Sky) excited for him,” Fullerton said.
Sterk said he and his wife Debi and daughters Ashley, Amy and Abby are eager to join WSU and the Pullman community.
“Debi and I are excited about the opportunity to be a part of the Cougar family,” Sterk said. “I look forward to working with President Rawlins to build on what has been already done. There is tradition and passion in Cougar athletics and I plan to bring together and develop the programs everyone knows we can have.”
Sterk grew up on a dairy farm near Everson in Whatcom County and is a 1979 Western Washington University graduate, where he played football and basketball. He was a linebacker, earned four varsity letters and was team captain. Sterk also lettered in basketball in 1975.
Volleyball head coach Cindy Fredrick, also a member of the search committee, emphasized several qualities that continued to come forth about Sterk: his leadership, experience and passion to be at WSU.
“We see these qualities as indications of the commitment he will have to WSU,” Fredrick said. “He knows it will be a tough job.
“However, people will enjoy working for him, and he will get things done,” the WSU coach said.
Sterk replaces Rick Dickson, who left WSU this spring to become athletic director at Tulane.