Bjork Meets The Press

Ross Bjork, who met the press this afternoon in the South End Zone, appeared to be comfortable in his new skin as the Ole Miss athletics director. Read about it inside.

After Athletics Director Search Committee Co-Chairman Mike Glenn introduced new Rebel AD Ross Bjork (enunciation B-york), the new athletics boss shook the hands of Chancellor Dan Jones, Glenn and Co-Chair Archie Manning and stepped to the podium.

Bjork, introduced his lovely wife, Sonya, and 5-year old son, Payton, named after Walter Payton, and then immediately took control of the room, touching on his vision of all the main topics of Ole Miss athletics.

Strong academics, doing the right things the right way, guarding the integrity of Ole Miss, fundraising, working tirelessly to meet goals and objectives, providing service to the university, community and state, and competing for and winning championships in "the best athletic conference, without a doubt, in the country" were the highlights of his talk.

However, it wasn't necessarily the content of his message that won the crowd over quickly - most in his shoes would have said many of the same things.

It was his delivery.

There was a genuine conviction in his voice and an economy and directness in his words.

This was no bull session intended to wow those in attendance and those watching on Rebelvision or listening on statewide radio.

This was honest dialogue, delivered with passion and humility toward the opportunity he had earned and was now entrusted with.

He pledged daily effort. He noted that he is a serious person by nature and would take his responsibilities as the head man of Ole Miss sports seriously.

Bjork promised to embrace the Rebel Nation, Oxford, the community and the university by "wrapping my arms around all those who love and support Ole Miss."

All eyes in the room stayed glued on him while he delivered his message.

"Ole Miss athletics is serious and I'm a serious guy. I can assure you we are going to give maximum effort and have the right attitude every single day," he said. "That will define our success.

"Our student-athletes will achieve academic excellence. We will always challenge our athletes to do their best in the classroom. Student-athlete welfare will be a priority to us - we work for them. We will have integrity in our programs and will never cut corners - we will do the right things the right way. We will be integrated with the university - we are not separate, we are part of this institution. We will all be engaged in our mission - we cannot do our jobs behind our desks or by ourselves. We expect our student-athletes to be good citizens. Last, but not least, we will compete for and win championships.

Bjork and Manning
Bruce Newman

"When we operate under those core values, we will be successful."

In a meeting with existing staff earlier in the day, Bjork said he outlined the requirements for thriving in the the athletics department.

"We must all be academic counselors, compliance officers and fundraisers or ticket sellers," he continued. "We have to stress academics, doing things the right way and generate interest in our program. Those are musts."

Bjork extended an open door policy to all Rebels, but in particular former student-athletes.

"This is your home. You bled and sweated for Ole Miss and you will always be welcomed," he noted.

Then, he put the proverbial monkey on his back.

"My personal challenge, all on me, will be to wrap my arms around Ole Miss, the Rebel Nation and everyone who cares about our student-athletes. That is my challenge I will take to work with me every single day," Ross noted. "I wanted to be somewhere that cared about athletics and Ole Miss cares about athletics. With that in mind, I will work endlessly to made sure that care translates into success."

To close, he offered a challenge to all Ole Miss fans.

"To the Rebel Nation, I ask one thing - pull the rope in the same direction because you love our kids and you love this institution," he closed. "Thank you, thank you, thank you. Hotty Toddy."

In Manning's brief comments, he said the athletics director's job drew "several outstanding candidates" and the decision was a tough one.

What separated Bjork from the pack? Jones fielded that query.

"It's not often you can say the youngest AD at a BCS school was separated by his experience, but that is what we have with Ross," said the chancellor. "He has relevant experience for what our needs are at Ole Miss. He has experience in a breadth of different parts of running an athletics department. He was also a sitting AD.

"The depth of experience was the factor that separated Ross for me, but he has a presence that gains respect when he comes into a room, both by the history of what he has done and how he carries himself. I cannot emphasize the quality of candidates we had, outstanding candidates, and some of you were frustrated with how long this process took, but we had a challenge in that we had a great field of candidates and the decision was not easy."

Those qualities were easy to see with Ross Bjork at the podium.

He commanded everyone's attention and controlled the room.

Time and results will be the tell on Bjork's administration. As Sonya Bjork said after the press conference, "We're in the honeymoon phase now - we know there is a lot to prove and a lot to accomplish."

But if good starts mean anything, give Ross Bjork a high mark.

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