Making the Rounds

HOOVER, Ala. - Ross Bjork made his first appearance at SEC Media Days Thursday. The new Ole Miss athletics director doesn't miss opportunities to promote The University of Mississippi to others.

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"The SEC's the best conference in athletics. What better stage to be on?" said Bjork, on the job since April and making his way through the print and other media rooms at the Wynfrey Hotel here to radio row and all the sports talks shows in the lobby. "So when this came up and I was able to come, I said ‘I've got to be here' to support our players first and foremost and then Coach (Hugh) Freeze as we all go through this for the first time. And then you get a chance to be exposed to all the different media that's here. I think it's a great way to keep Ole Miss on the radar from a national and local perspective."

Bjork worked previously at schools in the ACC (Miami), the Pac 10, now Pac 12 (UCLA), and the Big 12 (Missouri, which is now in the SEC). He said the SEC Media Days is an impressive event as summer moves toward football season.

"It's a big-time setting," he said, as more than 1,100 media members were credentialed for this year's event. "It's really amazing this many people gather in one place to talk about football. I think that goes back to the culture of the SEC and the South and how people live and breathe college football. And then obviously with the national platform the SEC has performed on, this is the place to be."

Bjork said Freeze and Ole Miss were able to get their message out about what's going on with the program.

"I think people are curious about what we're going to do at Ole Miss," he said. "Our name has been thrown out there earlier in the week by several different people. So for us to get a chance to talk about how we're changing the culture of our program, that's important. Getting people to believe and buy in, our people, the Ole Miss people to believe and buy in, but then the national people to see Coach Freeze on that stage and in that platform to say ‘You know what? This guy has what it takes to do this job.'"

Bjork said it's about Ole Miss focusing on itself and its product and not worrying about what others might say at this point.

Bjork continues to push a positive message of Ole Miss sports to the state, region, nation
Bruce Newman

"We can only control ourselves in this environment," he said. "We can internalize some of those things, but emotionally and publicly we take the high road and control what we can control."

Bjork said SEC Media Days is another opportunity to kick off all the important aspects of what's going on in Ole Miss athletics during this period of transition.

"Media Day is the start of the season, for all intents and purposes," he said. "We have two weeks before training camp starts on Aug. 2 when they report, and then practice on Aug. 4. Now that this is here, this kicks things off. We focus on football, and this is good for us, too. We need to sell tickets. Now football is back on the radar, and people are talking about it. Hopefully they buy even more tickets."

Bjork said things are moving both in season ticket sales and with the Forward Together campaign. But they always hope for additional progress each day.

"We're over 32,000 season tickets sold," he said, which does not count 8,000 season tickets for Ole Miss students. "We had a great week last week. This week we expect another great week with all this buzz happening around football."

The capital fundraising campaign for athletics continues to move forward as the entire project has moved past $65 million. That's all happened in less than a year since the announcement of Forward Together, a period of time that's included changes in the head football coaching position and in the athletics director's chair. The momentum continues to surge with the new regime.

"As for the Forward Together campaign, we announced a million dollar gift (this week)," Bjork said. "We're tracking toward Sept. 1 with some good conversations, some great conversations. Hopefully we'll land those gifts that we have on the table."

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