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Sterk was the man who hired Paul Wulff to revive the Washington State football program. When Wulff's first two teams combined to win three games, both men got an earful from fans, many of whom wanted Wulff – and perhaps Sterk -- fired.
"Paul inherited a tough situation and he was willing to take it on," Sterk said. "I felt we needed to see that through, that he needed at least four years to be evaluated."
Here we are at the beginning of year four, and Wulff's Cougars are 2-0, leading the nation in scoring and thrilling WSU fans everywhere. As luck would have it, the Cougars play Saturday at San Diego State, where Sterk has served as AD since stepping down at Washington State in February 2010.
"I've been excited to see Paul and his team start off really well," Sterk said. "It's been fun. I saw a few highlights and all. I kept telling people the Cougars were going to be a heck of a lot better. These kids have taken their lumps for the past few years and are ready to dish it out.
"But I don't want them to have a great weekend this weekend," Sterk added with a laugh. "They can have 11 others -- or 12 others, counting the bowl, and I'd love to see them down for the Holiday Bowl -- but this weekend, we need to win."
THE COUGARS WERE coming off a fourth straight season without a winning record (counting a 6-6 season in 2006) when Sterk sat down with coach Bill Doba following an Apple Cup victory at Washington in 2007.
"I said, ‘Bill, I think we need to make a change unless you feel like you have the energy to take it on in rebuilding of this thing,'" Sterk recalled. "He said he felt it was time (to change head coaches), so I went about to look for somebody.
"I looked at a lot of people. I did not know Paul other than he was the Eastern (Washington) coach. When I met with him -- we all met with him -- I think he really impressed us as someone who had the passion and desire. He had played at WSU, so he had that insight, and he was ready to put some hard work together."
Hard work did not prevent hard times, however.
"Both of us probably didn't know how hard it was going to be," Sterk said, "but I think he's somebody who's going to persevere through tough times. He has great faith and strength. I think he was the right person to build it the right way. You could have taken some shortcuts (with more junior college transfers), but I think he's tried to build it long term."
STERK, WHO SAW WSU basketball return from the dead after he hired coaches Dick and Tony Bennett, was the fortunate beneficiary last season of the first NCAA tournament Sweet 16 teams in San Diego State men's and women's basketball history. That came on the heels of the Aztecs' first football bowl victory since 1969.
"Timing is everything," Sterk said.
Athletic department donations and ticket sales have soared since Sterk's arrival. He raves about the people he works with and living in beautiful San Diego, but the 55-year-old Washington native – he starred in football at Nooksack Valley High School and Western Washington University – said it wasn't easy leaving WSU after 10 years.
"I felt like I'd done a good job at Washington State and it was time for me to look elsewhere," he said. "It was very difficult because of the ties, because of the family. It's easy for an AD to move, but it makes it more difficult for the family. My wife and daughters, it was a difficult time.
"They still miss their friends and all, but they've started to get new friends and get a lot more visitors. People want to come visit us here, which is no surprise, and that's been fun."
In fact, one of the "visitors" Sterk is happiest to see is eldest daughter Ashley, who now attends Washington State. Middle daughter Amy is a soccer and softball player at Whitworth, and youngest daughter Abby is a junior in high school in San Diego, where she plays basketball and tennis.
Jim Sterk told you so..
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