Ross Bjork Press Conference

(Courtesy UM Photographer Kevin Bain)

March 22, 2012

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Opening Comments:
"Let me welcome all of you here today. Thank you for being here. To everybody watching and to all of our Ole Miss fans, this is a great day for Ole Miss. This is a happy day for us to be here to introduce Ross Bjork as our athletics director. Athletics is important for our university. Many of you have heard me say that we want to be excellent in everything we do. Today is a real step for us as a university and as an athletic department towards achieving that goal. I want to say a special word of appreciation to my good friend Pete Boone. He has served faithfully for many years. Ross is going to inherit an athletic department that has challenges, but with a fabric of integrity. He inherits the greatest fans in the world. I want to say a really deep word of appreciation to this search committee. You have seen them work first as a search committee to hire Hugh Freeze as our head football coach, and in these last weeks we added Cal Mayo to the group to select a new athletics director. They have worked hard over these last weeks to get us a good result. They have worked really hard. They have worked faithfully and in the best interest of Ole Miss. I want to say a special appreciation to our co-chairs, Archie Manning and Mike Glenn. I don't know if there is another university that has two men who are more influential in the world of sports than these two guys. What a gift to the university it has been that they have put themselves forwards. I can never thank them enough. When we began this search we were looking for a new leader for Ole Miss Athletics who had the integrity and character that fit with Ole Miss. We wanted to find somebody who was doing all the right things that you would want to find in the athletics director. We wanted them to display a clean compliance record, a strong focus on academics and an understanding of the role of athletics in the overall university setting. We wanted someone who wanted to be at Ole Miss. We wanted someone who believes Ole Miss can win at every level. We wanted someone who could unify the Ole Miss family. If you are one of those people who were hoping that this committee would go outside of the Ole Miss family to find someone who would come in with a fresh perspective, here is your guy. If you were somebody who wanted someone from the Ole Miss family who cares about Ole Miss athletics, here is your guy. He is going to be as much a part of the Ole Miss family as the Ole Miss family makes him a part of the Ole Miss family. This is a new day in athletics, and Ross Bjork is our leader. He needs the support of every person in the Ole Miss family. That is the way he will be successful, and that is the way we will all be successful."


Opening Comments:
"These last five months have been a labor of love. I want to emphasize what a strong pool of candidates we had for this position. That is a credit to our university. Ross, we are proud to have you. He is qualified, well-respected throughout, and we are so excited to have him. I won't offer advice, but I will plead a little bit. We need to unite, come together, get on board and be all in."


Opening Comments:
"When the Chancellor asked me to chair the search committee I told him I was delighted. I think we have caught lightening in a bottle twice. I want to thank the search committee. Their time, effort and energy put forth for Ole Miss has been great. I want to thank the Chancellor. It has been a pleasure to work so closely with him over the last five months. The leadership he has shown throughout both these searches, his willingness to provide the committee the freedom and authority to find the best candidate for Ole Miss has been truly refreshing. I came away from the head coaching search on a high. Nobody left that press conference where Hugh Freeze was introduced without great optimism for where we were headed at Ole Miss. I wasn't sure that that could be duplicated. I knew from spending a short amount of time with Ross before his interview that he was someone special. I couldn't wait to get into the interview with him. I knew it would be full of energy and passion, and I knew he was going to share his vision for how we could take Ole Miss to a new level. That is exactly what he did. I came away as excited as I was when we decided to hire our new football coach. We have a dynamic duo with Bjork and Freeze. It is my pleasure to introduce our new athletics director, Ross Bjork."


Opening Comments:
"Thank you to my wife Sonya for being the rock. If you want to know who runs things, she runs things. She is perfect. Payton and Paxton, my sons, you all will get a chance to meet. Thank you Chancellor Jones for giving me this opportunity here at Ole Miss. I truly appreciate what you have done, extending this to me and my family. To the search committee, Archie and Mike, thank you for your confidence and vision to take Ole Miss Athletics to where we all think it can go. I want to thank WKU and President (Gary) Ransdell for all that he gave me and the opportunity to be their athletics director these last two years. That is a special place. It has a lot of the same ingredients as we do here at Ole Miss. That was my first full-time job in college athletics at WKU in 1996. To go back there as their athletic director, I owe them a lot. Rebel nation, thank you so much for this tremendous opportunity, the opportunity to work in the best collegiate environment in America. Ole Miss is the best. While Ole Miss is our spirit and character, we will not forget that we are the University of Mississippi. With that comes responsibility to do things the right way and to operate this institution under the vision and mission that we are educators first and foremost. We are here to educate our students, and athletics will be no different in that vision. Our mission is to provide opportunity to change lives. We engage minds, transform lives and we serve others. We integrate ourselves into the institution. We are going to challenge our athletes academically, provide them with life-changing opportunities through sports, and we are going to serve others by providing them entertainment by competing for and winning championships. I am a very serious guy. I like to have fun, but I am serious. I take this task very seriously. We will take our tasks very seriously. It means a lot to those 18-21 year olds that we are successful. It means a lot to our fans. I can assure you that we are going to give the maximum effort and have the right attitude every single day. That will define our success: attitude and effort. My philosophy and core values are based on the following: Academic excellence. We will never sacrifice the integrity of academics here at Ole Miss. We will always challenge our athletes to do the best in the classroom; Student Athlete Welfare. We have 200 athletic employees and thousands of university employees. We have a job for one reason, students. Student athlete welfare will be the number one priority. We work for them. They are the beginning and the end in everything that we do; Integrity. We will never cut corners. We will do things right and do the right thing. Period; Integrate with the university. We are not separate from this institution; Community engagement. In order to provide the resources for us to compete at the highest level, we have to be engaged in the community. We have to ask people to buy tickets or to do whatever they can do to help. It is our job to visit with people. We cannot do these jobs from behind our desks. We cannot do it alone. We need the support of the Rebel nation to provide those resources; Social Responsibility. We expect our athletes to be good citizens. We are going to make mistakes. We are dealing with young adults. We will face them head on and deal with them appropriately; Last, but not least, we want to be competitive. We compete in the SEC. We want to compete for and win championships in the best athletic conference in the country, bar none. When we operate under those core values and do things the right way, there is nothing better than college athletics. There is nothing better than what we do and the student athletes who provide a vehicle for our fans and alumni to be excited. Coaches and staff will be expected to represent Ole Miss every single day. The logo never comes off. Whether we are downtown, getting out of our cars, or working, the logo never comes off. We expect our staff and coaches, no matter the circumstances, to perform in the right way. I will expect our coaches to recruit best and brightest, to care about academics and compete for and win championships. Our staff will perform at the highest level. Everyone is a compliance officer, academic advisor, a fundraiser and a ticket seller. That has to be our focus. Academics, doing things the right way and generating interest in our program. To our student athletes, we will keep it very simple. Go to to class and study, do the right thing and compete and train at the highest level. If they do those three things, they will be successful. Former student-athletes who wore the red and blue are always welcome back here on campus. This is your home and this is where the blood, sweat and tears happened. Former athletes are always welcome back here at Ole Miss. My personal challenge will be to wrap my arms around Ole Miss, Rebel nation, the University of Mississippi and everyone who cares about our student athletes and this institution. I am going to take this challenge to the job every single day. Anyone who cares about this institution, I ask one thing of you; pull the rope in the same direction, because you all love our kids, and you all love this institution. Thank you all, and Hotty Toddy."


On Bjork's timetable coming to Ole Miss:
"He is committing to come sometime in the next two to four weeks to take responsibility for athletics. He has to work things out back at WKU with his President what will be the best time for him to come here. In the meantime, we will continue our spirit of collaboration moving forward. Pete and I have been working on things that need to be done before Ross gets here. He is going to participate in all the major decisions going forward. When he is able to come and assume full responsibilities he will have all of those as athletics director."


"I want to be here by the spring game, for sure. That is an important moment for our program. Next week I will start the tour of talking with our coaches. We will hit the ground running right away."


On personal timeline for becoming an athletics director in the BCS:
"This is a great opportunity, first and foremost, so when this came about I was initially hesitant because I had not been at Western Kentucky for a full two years. I said no to the initial approach in January, but I guess they thought I had more breathing room as time went on. My goal all along is to give back to this profession. I was a student athlete at the Division II level and the purity of that was so much fun that I wanted to give back in some way. I wanted to be at a place that cares about athletics. Western Kentucky cares about athletics. Those are the programs you want to work at. We are flexible on where we live, but the added perk of WKU and also Ole Miss is that we are close to family. Sonya's family lives in Missouri. There was no rush, I was just doing the best I could and things happened to work out."

On fundraising and the current campaign:
"Fundraising is all about relationships. It is about looking people in the eye and sharing a vision. A lot of times you don't have to ask for the money because you are sharing a vision and they are asking you what they can do for you. Developing those relationships is the number one ingredient for successful fundraising. The campaign is off to a great start. I love where we are, and now we have to close it. We have to accelerate it. I can't wait to work with Danny White and his staff. I like the momentum. Now, we have to start working with people. I have talked to many people since yesterday on the phone, and I can't wait to work with all of you. The process has already started."

On uniting the fan base:
"I don't see it as a challenge. It is our job every day to go out and talk to people about the program. I talked about the staff responsibilities and selling the program each and every day, so we are going to go out, talk with enthusiasm and have the right attitude. We are going to tell people we care. It is not a challenge. We will tell them whats going on and we will ask them to help. I am ready to embrace that."

On personal philosophy for coaching decisions:
"Those decisions are always made with the best interest of the program in mind. At WKU we faced a tough situation with men's basketball, but it turned out to be a great situation at the end. We also had a situation with our women's program that was very similar to the situation here. Luckily, I just went through a women's search at WKU. I understand the dynamics for the women's job and the finalists. I am heavily involved in learning and understanding that. We are going to hire the best coach for this job. The dynamics of that are always what is best for the program. We have to hire the best and the brightest. This is a great job. This program has won a lot of women's basketball games and people want this job. I am going to be heavily involved."

On most important qualities:
"You are defined by everything you do. Fundraising, facilities, whatever it may be, you have to be everything. We are defined by every decision we make, and I think what is best for the program is paramount. Every athletic director is defined by everything, and it is our job to do what is best for the institution day in and day out."


On what set Bjork apart:
"It is not often that you talk about the youngest athletic director for a BCS school in the country and say that his experience was what set him apart. He had relevant experience for what our needs were for Ole Miss. He had experience at different places, great depth of working in and with different parts of an athletics department and he had experience at not just being an adviser, but also sitting in the chair and pulling the strings as an athletics director. For me, one of the things that separated him was the depth of experience that he had. When he comes into a room, he makes an impression on people. We knew he was somebody that could make an impression. We knew he could make an impression here. Who he is through integrity and character was perfect. I cannot emphasize enough that we had great candidates. We had a challenge to make this decision for who would be the person, and Ross separated himself as fitting our needs here at Ole Miss."




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