ST. LOUIS–In a surprise announcement late Monday afternoon, the University of Missouri announced that it mutually agreed to part ways with Athletic Director Jim Sterk after five years on the job. Sterk, who came to Mizzou from San Diego State, will stay on until a replacement is named.
There are no shortage of candidates with logical ties to the school who could be considered this time around, although it should be noted that Sterk had no connection to the department when he was hired. And in this era of college athletics, someone who can navigate the treacherous waters of conference realignment, make the tough calls on hiring and retaining the right coaches in revenue generating sports, continue to grease the skids on fundraising while also functioning in an era where student-athletes are getting paid, previous ties can be easily trumped.
Here’s a look at some potential options:
WREN BAKER-He served as Interim AD at Missouri before Sterk was hired, then departed for the University of North Texas when he was named AD there five years ago this week. From his “Mean Green” bio: “At Missouri he was responsible for assisting the athletic director with all aspects of administration, including head coaching searches in football and baseball. He led the athletic department’s external relations team, including development, marketing, licensing, the ticket office and strategic communications. During his first year at Missouri, Baker oversaw the implementation of a new annual fund model and restructured the external team. Shortly after Baker’s arrival in Denton, Mizzou announced the completion of a record fundraising year.“
MARK ALNUTT- The former Missouri football player and former Athletic Department staff member is currently the AD at Buffalo, where he is also a member of the Division I Oversight panel. He’s hired four head coaches since he arrived in Buffalo from Memphis in 2018, including replacements for Nate Oats, who left for Alabama and Lance Leipold, who arrived in Kansas this past spring. Alnutt is a former AD at SEMO. It is worth noting that a former Alnutt teammate at Missouri was Darryl Chatman, now Chair of the University of Missouri Board of Curators.
DOUG GILLIN– The Appalachian State Athletic Director since 2015 when he left a deputy position in the Missouri Athletic department, Gillin would also check the Missouri ties box. He also hired Eli Drinkwitz as the Mountaineers’ Head Football Coach. Gillin also lays claim to a role in MU’s fundraising exploits. “Among his accomplishments in Columbia, he helped lead the university’s athletics capital campaign and was involved in a $102 million facilities enhancement plan for football, baseball, softball, golf, tennis and track and field,” his bio reads.
NICKI MOORE– A Missouri Track and Field alum, Moore has had considerable responsibilities in the Athletic Departments of the University of Oklahoma and the University of North Carolina, where she touts time spent improving the athlete experience and improving academic achievement. She’s been the Athletic Director at Colgate since 2018.
While all four of these candidates have Missouri ties, one thing none of them has done is hire a head football or basketball coach at a Power 5 conference school. That, in addition to bringing in donors, is what a Power 5 AD gets judged on ultimately. Here are three candidates with experience in that area.
WHIT BABCOCK: The former Missouri staffer has been atop the Virginia Tech Athletic Department since 2014. The Virginia native is in the middle of a $400 million fundraising campaign for the department which launched in April. Babcock’s hiring of Justin Fuente to replace legendary football coach Frank Beamer has seen mixed reviews, as the Hokies have gone 19-18 over the past three seasons after a 19-8 start. The hire of men’s basketball coach Mike Young has been seen as a smart choice, as the Hokies have gone 31-23 in 2 seasons and are 5-3 vs. ranked teams.
JAMIE POLLARD– The Iowa State AD since 2005 could welcome a chance to land on stable ground, now that footing underneath Big 12 programs appears to be crumbling before our very eyes with Texas and Oklahoma likely bound for the SEC. Pollard is a former Associated AD at Saint Louis University in the early 90s. Pollard sits on the NCAA Men’s Basketball Committee. He hit a home run with the hire of Head Football Coach Matt Campbell. Pollard succeeded on the basketball side, bringing legend Fred Hoiberg home to roost. He hired Steve Prohm to replace him when Hoiberg left for the Chicago Bulls, but was forced to make a change when Prohm’s program went 14-44 over the past two seasons.
Other names to watch: Brian White (Florida Atlantic), Kirby Hocutt (Texas Tech).