Steve Sturek wraps up his tenure with A-Sun

sports@macon.comJuly 9, 2012 

The NCAA manual currently has 417 pages and probably will be even bigger for the 2012-13 academic year. You literally need a lawyer to decipher some of the rules, and the Macon-based A-Sun has employed an attorney in that role since December of 1990 when Steve Sturek came on board as Associate Commissioner for Compliance and Legal Affairs. He leaves that position this week, retiring after more than two decades on the job.

The Omaha, Neb., native has been a perfect fit having both an athletics and legal background. He played college football at Iowa State for Clay Stapleton on one of the school’s most colorful and successful teams, the 1959 squad known as “The Dirty 30.” That designation was given to the Cyclones by a sports writer during their season-opening game of that year when the squad consisted of just 30 players and played in the rain and mud against Drake,

Sturek was a sophomore wingback and defensive back on that team. He caught four passes that season for 74 yards and one touchdown and recorded one interception with a return of 22 yards. Two of his “Dirty 30” teammates went on to become college head coaches -- John Cooper at Ohio State and Dick Sczeniak at Kent State.

In Sturek’s three varsity seasons with the Cyclones, they were 7-3, 7-3 and 5-5. Included in those totals were two wins each over national powerhouses Oklahoma and Nebraska. As a senior, Sturek was believed to be the smallest player in the country at his position, defensive end, when he stood just 5-foot-9 and 165 pounds.

After receiving his undergraduate degree at Iowa State in 1962 he returned to Omaha for Law School at Creighton, where he finished in 1965. For the next 26 years, he practiced law, first with a firm in Omaha for eight years, then in private practice for seven years and finally for 11 years with the Sarpy County Attorney’s office. While in the County Attorney’s office he worked on major felony cases. During his legal career, he was on three death penalty cases, two as a defense attorney and one as a prosecutor, and he won all three.

In 1990, Sturek left the legal profession and came South to become the A-Sun’s first full-time compliance officer joining then-commissioner Lou McCullough’s office, which at the time was located in Athens. McCullough had been Sturek’s position coach at Iowa State. When Bill Bibb assumed the role of commissioner, he charged Sturek with establishing a compliance program that treated everybody equal.

Sturek has seen a lot of changes in athletics during his tenure.

“The biggest change has been the amount of money that is involved in intercollegiate athletics and how much it figures in the decision making,” he said.

He said he is pleased with the programs the NCAA has implemented for student athletes.

“The NCAA has really helped student athletes by providing special assistance funds and also for establishing the Student Athlete Advisory Committee. At the outset of the SAAC I was a skeptic. However, they are some of brightest young people you will ever be around.”

Sturek says the NCAA has enough funds to accommodate the student-athletes’ needs without providing stipends that have recently been discussed.

Even though committed to his job, he has had his frustrations.

“We have experienced a tremendous amount of resistance from some our conference athletic directors in recent years regarding the compliance program,” he said. “Not all, but some, are definitely not compliance friendly.”

Sturek is one of the most well-read individuals you will ever encounter. He typically reads at least five newspapers daily, especially those publications that fall within the A-Sun footprint.

Knowing his work ethic, I am not sure retirement will suit him well.

Contact Bobby Pope at bobbypope428@gmail.com

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