Western Washington University welcomes Jim Sterk as new director of Athletics

Bellingham-born, Everson-raised WWU alumnus and Athletics Hall of Famer returns to Western as AD after a 35-year history in athletics administration
Jim Sterk, pictured above, will become the seventh director of Athletics in the 109-year history of WWU Athletics.

Bellingham, WA — Jim Sterk, a veteran of over 35 years in athletics administration, has been selected as the next director of Athletics at Western Washington University. He becomes the seventh AD in the 109-year history of WWU Athletics and will take the helm of a program that is consistently among the best in NCAA Division II for both academic and athletic success. Sterk will report directly to WWU President Sabah Randhawa, and he will start in his new role on July 5. 

Most recently, Sterk was the AD at the University of Missouri from 2016-2021, with previous stops as the lead figure in athletic departments at San Diego State University (2010-2016), Washington State University (2000-2010) and Portland State University (1995-2010). No stranger to his Northwest roots, Sterk has spent over half of his career working in high levels at collegiate institutions in Washington and Oregon. 

President Randhawa said, “Having built an exemplary career in athletics administration across the nation at both the Division 1 and Division 2 levels, Jim brings a strong track record of fundraising and all-around athletics department success to Western. We are excited to welcome Jim home, and I look forward to working with him to further elevate our athletic and academic success and expand support for Western’s nationally recognized athletics program.” 

Incoming WWU Director of Athletics Jim Sterk said, “I want to thank President Randhawa and the search committee for placing the trust in me to become the next director of Athletics at Western Washington University. Throughout the process, I had great conversations with campus leaders, coaches, donors, friends, athletics staff and student-athletes, which only strengthened what I already knew – that WWU is a special place."

Sterk adds, "My journey in college athletics began at Western, and I am proud the next chapter in my career will be as the leader in a department that is defined by excellence, both in academics and competition. The sustainable base that has been built by the student-athletes, coaches and staff, and two great athletic directors, Lynda Goodrich and Steve Card, made this a very appealing position. I am excited for our journey to continue, taking my wife Debi and me back home to WWU, our families and friends, as well as Whatcom County and the State of Washington.” 

Kim O’Neill, CEO of The Foundation for WWU and Alumni and VP of University Advancement, said, “To welcome a Western graduate back to his alma mater is always special. With his deep roots in Whatcom County, his success as a WWU student-athlete and his impressive track record in athletics administration, he will hit the ground running. We are looking forward to partnering with him in raising the visibility of Viking Athletics among our alumni, community members and business partners to provide the support our current athletes deserve.” 

WWU athletes have won the Great Northwest Athletic Conference All-Sports Trophy in back-to-back years and 14 times overall, finished in the top 50 in the NCAA II Learfield Directors’ Cup standings in 16 of the past 17 years and won 12 team national championships. WWU’s high academic standard has resulted in earning the NCAA’s President’s Award for Academic Excellence five times in the last six years.  

Born and raised in Whatcom County, Sterk returns to his alma mater at WWU, where he earned his Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration and Physical Education and is a member of the Athletics Hall of Fame. 

Jim Sterk’s 35-year career 

University of Missouri (Mizzou) 

Most recently at the University of Missouri, Sterk helped 18 of the department's 20 programs to a postseason appearance in 2020-21. His stop in Columbia, Missouri saw the Tigers win seven individual NCAA Championships and 11 conference team titles. His fundraising expertise helped open new facilities to enhance the football program as it continued its transition from the Big 12 to the SEC, and student ticket sales increased during his tenure.  

In 2020-21 Missouri had a record-breaking fiscal year with $55.5 million in fundraising, capping a string of three of the top five fundraising years in department history.   

Academically he helped Mizzou enhance its academic reputation by increasing graduation rates and overall student-athlete success in the classroom. Missouri’s Learfield Directors’ Cup finishes averaged 41.3 from 2016-21, well above its previous 25-year average of 58.3.  

San Diego State University (SDSU) 

Prior to the University of Missouri, Sterk spent six years at San Diego State University (SDSU), where he was named the NCAA Division I National Athletic Director of the Year (2015-16). Sterk oversaw the most successful stretches in SDSU’s athletic history with 32 team conference championships and the fourth-highest combined winning percentage in football and basketball in the nation. The Aztecs appeared in six consecutive football bowl games to set a program record and won a pair of Mountain West Conference titles. SDSU also reached new levels in academic success with over 60-percent of 500 student-athletes earning Scholar Athlete honors in 2016.  

While there, Sterk grew the athletic department budget, increased scholarships for student athletes and erased a $3 million deficit he had inherited, in large part thanks to annual fund donations.   

Washington State University (WSU) 

Sterk led the Cougars athletic programs from 2000-2010. His 11 years in Pullman were marked by a lot of success which included 13 sports represented in NCAA postseason play, highlighted by three consecutive football 10-win seasons, men’s basketball reaching the postseason three straight seasons, women’s rowing earning five NCAA Championships appearances.  

WSU Athletics received the D-1A Athletic Director’s “Program of Excellence” award in 2006 and was recognized as a Top 10 Equity and Diversity program. In 2006, WSU was the recipient of the inaugural “Opportunity Award” presented by the Women’s Sports Foundation and in 2009 the Cougars finished seventh nationally on the “Gender Equity Scorecard.”  

Sterk also helped the Athletic Foundation membership double in size with annual profits increasing from $3 million in giving and pledges to over $13 million in 2008.     

Portland State University 

Sterk began his AD career at Portland State where he directed the Vikings successful transition from NCAA Division II to NCAA Division I status. The foundation for strong department fundraising, facility improvements and academic success were built that followed Sterk along each step in his AD career.  

His professional career in athletics administration also included stops at Tulane University, University of North Carolina, Maine and Seattle Pacific University.    

It all began at WWU 

As a student-athlete at WWU, Sterk was selected as a First Team NAIA District 1 All-Star, team captain and MVP in helping lead the Vikings to the 1977 District Championship title game. He was credited with a school-record 164 tackles that season. During his prep career at Nooksack Valley High School, Sterk was twice named a Second Team All-State basketball player, helping the Pioneers to the Class A title game in 1974. 


About Western Washington University 

Western Washington University offers more than 200 academic programs on its main campus located in Bellingham, and at additional sites in Anacortes, Bremerton, Everett, Port Angeles and Poulsbo. Western is recognized nationally for its successes, from being named the top master’s-granting institution in the Pacific Northwest for 23 years in a row by U.S. News & World Report, which also named WWU as the of the best public schools in the West for veterans, to its recognition as one of the most sustainable, green campuses in the nation by the Sierra Club. Western is also known for being a top producer of prestigious National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Hollings Scholars, Fulbright Scholars, and Peace Corps volunteers, and nationally ranked for graduates who go on to earn research doctorates.  The Chronicle of Higher Education’s Academic Workplace report named Western as one of the best colleges in the nation to work for, winning honors in two categories: teaching environment and tenure clarity and process.  

About WWU Athletics 

Western Washington University is a four-year public institution located in Bellingham, Washington, featuring over 300 student-athletes that compete for 15 intercollegiate athletic teams at the NCAA Division II level and in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference. WWU Athletics has finished in the top 50 in the NCAA II Learfield Directors’ Cup standings in 16 of the past 17 years, and in the top 20 in eight of the last 13 years (no award in 2019-20 or 2020-21). WWU’s programs have won 12 team national championships, most recently the 2022 women’s soccer team and the 2017 women’s rowing team. Outside of competition. WWU’s student-athletes have compiled an academic success at 90% or better in five of the last six years, earning the NCAA’s President’s Award for Academic Excellence five times. The 2022-23 season was another banner year for the Vikings, earning the GNAC All-Sports Trophy for the 14th time while capturing six conference titles. The women’s soccer team captured the NCAA Division II National Championship, men’s and women’s cross country and outdoor track & field swept GNAC titles, the volleyball team hosting the West Regional championship for the second time in program history and the women’s basketball team winning the regular-season and postseason GNAC Championship. The men’s cross country team placed 14th at nationals and the men’s golf team advanced to the postseason for the 24th consecutive year while placing 14th at nationals, led by a second-place finish by Jordan Lee.  

Media Contacts 

Jonathan Higgins 
WWU Communications 

Jeff Evans 
WWU Athletics Communications