Sterk: WSU moving right way on all fronts

BELLEVUE -- When Jim Sterk surveys the sports landscape as he nears the completion of his eighth year as the athletic director at Washington State, he can't help but smile.

Every sport is either competitive or making strides in that direction.

"The least competitive sport this last year was women's basketball and I think they have the brightest future," Sterk said the other day while in Newcastle for the King County Cougar Golf Classic co-sponsored by Cougfan.com.

"They had to get through a tough transition year (5-25 last season), but with the players coming back and the freshman, it may be the most talented group of players WSU has ever had."

"Our goal for every sport is to make postseason play every season," Sterk said. "And this year nine out of our 17 made it. Baseball had its third-straight winning season and is on a growth plane and there aren't really any big problem areas."

Sterk doesn't exempt football from the lofty expectations, with new head coach Paul Wulff taking over for Bill Doba this fall.

"We want to make postseason play, go to a bowl game, but it's understandable if it doesn't with the transition," Sterk said. "We want to be moving toward that goal and I have all the confidence in the world that we'll be doing just that."

Sterk said WSU fans will quickly adjust to Wulff's no-huddle offense.

"It's been 19 years since we've had a new offense," Sterk said. "It started with Erickson and Price and then Bill kept it, so it's been a long run. It's going to be exciting and fun and people will really enjoy it."

Sterk also touched on a variety of other topics.

Phase III of the stadium renovation project is coming together quickly. Fundraising for that phase will begin in earnest next week, while a final design will be settled upon any day now.

The first two phases of the renovation, $24.5 million worth paid for by a facility fee and a student referendum, will be finished before football season starts in the fall. Improvements include south, north and east sides restrooms, concessions and and other fan amenities.

For Phase III, two companies will submit their final designs in the coming days. Once the final design is selected, requests for donations and premium seating sales will begin.

An interesting new wrinkle in the design could be in the offing, but Sterk said he wasn't ready to comment publicly about it.

The third phase will add 2,200 premium seats on the north side of the stadium.

"Financially, those 2,200 seats can generate almost the amount of revenue we generate through ticket sales with our 35,000 seats," Sterk said. "We generate about $4 million in ticket sales and those seats will generate about $3.7 million."

Sterk doesn't anticipate having any trouble selling the suite, loge and club seats that range in price from $2,500 to $50,000.

"We've done a market survey and already have people who have expressed interest or signed letters of intent," Sterk said. "There are 16 suites and 30 people have expressed interest in purchasing those. Priority will be given to those who have made donations."

Sterk said a gift of $500,000 guarantees the right to purchase a suite, a donation of $100,000 guarantees a loge box and $5,000 guarantees a club seat and that donations will be accepted until 2010.

"By August, we need to sell 60 percent of the premium seating as one of the benchmarks we need to hit to continue to move forward," Sterk said. "There will be a lot of activity over the next couple of months to make it all go. By October we'll present it to the regents and start building in January."

Sterk is confident all the benchmarks will be met.

"Ideally we would have been selling a year ago, but we were delayed," Sterk said. "We ended up going to a design/build process. At one point we were hearing $59 million and now we've got it down to $39 million so that's more manageable and something we can hit this winter."

The $39 million is part of $70 million in renovations in athletic facilities across campus. Included are baseball improvements, a soccer stadium, an indoor rowing facility, and a hydrotherapy building.

STERK SAID HE EXPECTS DOBA TO stay close to the Cougar football program, and shed more light on the decision to make a coaching change.

Sterk said he was worried about making the decision to change head coaches after WSU beat Washington in the Apple Cup for the third time in four seasons.

Sterk said he met with Doba the Monday after the Apple Cup.

"I just said, 'Bill, I think it's time for a transition, but if you tell me you have the energy and the desire and want to take it on for a year or two more, then let's talk.'

"And he said in my heart of hearts I think what's best for Washington State is we move.

"I worried about it a lot, but I shouldn't have," Sterk continued.

"I think it was the right thing and Bill was involved in our search process. Bill has been very, very supportive and wants us to succeed."

In fact, Sterk said he has been lobbying Doba to keep his house in Pullman.

"He's decided to sell it so he could be closer to his grandkids, but I told him that he's always got a bed at my place so he can come back and stay there," Sterk said. "He's a great guy and enjoying doing a lot of things he couldn't do when he was coaching."


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