Eight possible candidates for Mizzou's next athletic director after Jim Sterk stepped down

Eric Blum
Columbia Daily Tribune
The Missouri Tigers, led by Truman the Tiger, enter Memorial Stadium during the traditional Tiger Walk prior to their game against the Florida Gators in 2019 at Faurot Field.

As soon-to-be former Missouri athletic director Jim Sterk on Monday unexpectedly announced his plans to step down after five years at the Tigers' helm, UM System President Mun Choi said he has already begun searching for Sterk's replacement.

Choi will look for someone to keep the athletic department stable amid staff changes, conference realignment and the evolving influence of name, image and likeness. 

Who is Choi eyeing to become the 21st athletic director in school history?

Here are eight names to keep an eye on for Sterk's permanent replacement.

North Texas quarterback Mason Fine (6) stands next to the school's athletic director, Wren Baker, after Fine received a game ball at the team's NCAA college football game against Florida Atlantic on Thursday, Nov. 15, 2018, in Denton, Texas.

Wren Baker, North Texas athletic director

Baker has served as the Mean Green's athletic director since July 2016, with his hiring coming 11 days before Sterk's appointment. 

Before his arrival in Denton, Baker served as the deputy director of athletics at Missouri in 2015 after holding a similar role at Memphis from 2013-15.

At Missouri, Baker's responsibilities included assisting the athletic director in administration, such as head coaching searches in football and baseball, leading to the hires of Barry Odom and Steve Bieser, respectively. 

Before Sterk began his tenure at Missouri and after Mack Rhoades' departure to Baylor, Baker served as Missouri's interim athletic director. 

Six North Texas teams have combined to win 11 conference or division championships during Baker’s tenure. During his career as an athletic director, he has led 16 head coach searches, which have resulted in coaches who have combined to win approximately 70% of their games.

A move back to Missouri would put Baker at the center of a more prominent school at a critical time.

More:University of Missouri athletic director Jim Sterk stepping down after five years

Director of Athletics Bryan Maggard on the sidelines as the Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns take down Georgia Southern 20-18 at Cajun Field on Saturday, Sept. 26, 2020.

Bryan Maggard, Louisiana athletic director 

Maggard spent 21 years in Columbia, most recently serving as the Tigers’ executive associate athletic director before his hiring to lead the Ragin' Cajuns in February 2017. 

During his time at MU, Maggard oversaw many different areas of the athletic department, including athletic performance, sports medicine and marketing.

Maggard was one of Missouri's leaders as it transitioned from the Big 12 Conference to the Southeastern Conference a decade ago, an experience that could be useful moving forward.

In Lafayette, Maggard hired Billy Napier in 2018, winning back-to-back Sun Belt Conference titles in Napier's first two seasons leading UL's football team. 

A move to Columbia would bring Maggard closer to his hometown of Dexter, Kansas, five hours from Columbia.

Previously:Mizzou athletic director Jim Sterk says he's not leaving for same spot at UCF

Appalachian State students and fans hold up a photo of Appalachian State head coach Eliah Drinkwitz following Appalachian State's 45-38 win over Louisiana-Lafayette in an NCAA college football game for the Sun Belt Football Championship on Saturday, Dec. 7, 2019, in Boone, N.C. (AP Photo/Brian Blanco)

Doug Gillin, Appalachian State athletic director

How does round No. 3 at Missouri sound for the guy that gave Eli Drinkwitz his first college head coaching job? 

That's what Missouri would get with Gillin, whose two previous stops at the school came in 1995-99 and 2012-15.

The most recent term was as the Tigers' deputy athletic director. 

Gillin took the Appalachian State athletic director job in 2015. His track record of football coaching hires has been well-documented, with Drinkwitz at the Mountaineers' helm for a year before coming to Columbia. 

Gillin hired Shawn Clark to replace Drinkwitz, and Appalachian State posted a 9-3 record in 2020. 

Gillin already has a working relationship ahead of a possible reunion with Columbia and his former head football coach.

Mark Alnutt, of Missouri, athletic director at the University of Buffalo.

Mark Alnutt, Buffalo athletic director

How about a former Tiger athlete and administrator?

Alnutt returning to Missouri would be just that. 

Alnutt suited up for Missouri football from 1993-95 and worked for the Tigers' athletic department from 2002-12.

During his first five years working for Missouri, he was the director of football operations. In 2005, he joined the athletic director staff, being elevated in 2006 to senior associate athletic director.

Alnutt also spent three years as athletic director at Southeast Missouri State. 

Before moving to Buffalo in 2018, he had a three-year run as Memphis' deputy athletic director.

One factor making Alnutt's return to Columbia less likely: He was elevated to vice president and director of athletics at Buffalo in May, signing a deal through 2026. 

Ryan Alpert, Missouri deputy director of athletics

If Missouri leadership keeps this hire in-house, it will likely be Alpert taking the reins of the Tigers' ship. 

Alpert has been one of Sterk's trusted colleagues since his return to Missouri in April 2020 after two years as deputy athletic director at Florida Atlantic. 

Alpert's current duties include developing new revenue streams to support the athletic department. He oversees the Tiger Scholarship Fund, ticketing and marketing staffs.

Alpert also serves as the sport administrator for men’s and women’s basketball.

Before heading to Boca Raton, Alpert joined Missouri in 2016 after five years in the athletic department at Memphis, his alma mater. 

Alpert also has previous stops at Miami (Ohio) and South Carolina.

Could West Virginia athletic director Shane Lyons make the move to Missouri and the SEC?

Shane Lyons, West Virginia athletic director  

A route Missouri could go would be swinging for the fences and trying to land a sitting Power Five Conference athletic director.

Lyons oversees the Mountaineers department, which was already a geographic outlier in the Big 12. With the uncertainty of the direction of West Virginia, through no fault of his own, would he make the move to a more stable spot in Missouri and the SEC? 

It would be a tough sell. Lyons is a West Virginia native and a Mountaineer alumnus himself. MU would likely have to break the bank to get him. However, he could be worth the purchase. 

Before taking over as West Virginia's athletic director in 2015, Lyons was Alabama's deputy athletic director and an associate commissioner for the Atlantic Coast Conference. 

Nicki Moore, Colgate athletic director

Moore, formerly Nicki Webber, is a former captain for Missouri's track and field and cross country teams. 

Also during her time as a student-athlete, Moore was a three-time Big 12 champion and qualified for the NCAA Championships twice. 

Moore served as a senior associate athletics director at Oklahoma and North Carolina before getting the chance to lead an athletic department since 2018 at Colgate. 

Since Moore's hiring, Raider teams have won six conference championships. 

SMU Director of Athletics Rick Hart, left, looks on during a news conference on the SMU campus in Dallas.

Rick Hart, SMU athletic director

Of the names on this list, Hart has been in his current position the longest, hired to lead Mustangs' athletics program in July 2012. 

Hart's family lineage is full of athletic department leaders. His grandfather, Dave Hart Sr., was Missouri's athletic director from 1978-86. His father, Dave Hart Jr., was an athletic director at Florida State and Tennessee. 

Prior to Rick Hart's arrival in Dallas, he was the athletic director at UT-Chattanooga for six years. 

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