SDSU hires new athletic director

San Diego State University’s new athletic director is Jim Sterk, who said today his hiring was a combination of good timing, an improved sports program and the rising profile of the Mountain West Conference.

Sterk, a 53-year-old who held the same job at Washington State University, will take his new position in mid-March.

He said at a news conference his family spent a week in San Diego in 2003 before the Cougars played in the Holiday Bowl, an experience that was “impressionable” on them about the quality of the city.

He and his family had just discussed seeking new opportunities when former SDSU athletic director Jeff Schemmel resigned amid an inquiry into travel expense records.

Sterk, who had two years remaining on his Washington State contract, said he was “excited” to learn the SDSU job had come open.

“This was an opportunity for me that I couldn’t turn down, both from a family and professional standpoint,” Sterk said.

He’ll lead an athletic program that has struggled financially and to

gain community attention, primarily because of an 11-year streak in which the football team has not appeared in a bowl game. However, the men’s and women’s basketball teams, and other sports have experienced success in recent years.

About leaving for a school in a conference that is not an automatic qualifier in college football’s BCS system, he said the Mountain West is “continuing to grow in stature” nationally.

“The line between the Pac-10 and the Mountain West has blurred a lot,” Sterk said.

Sterk is married and has three children.