The Message: It's a Journey

Hugh Freeze talks about the "journey" Ole Miss football is on. Ross Bjork talks about the "message" Ole Miss athletics is sending. Collectively, the message is about the journey.

Ole Miss football continues its journey to Atlanta where it meets TCU on New Year's Eve afternoon.

The message, along with other aspects of Rebel athletics, is that Ole Miss football is back.

Freeze and Bjork have basically been on this journey throughout the three years since it began. Freeze came on board in December, 2011, and Bjork four months later.

Since that time, there's been a lift of the entire athletics program at Ole Miss, mainly driven by the excitement generated by a resurging football program.

Ole Miss is on its biggest stage next week for a postseason bowl game since Archie Manning was a junior quarterback and the Rebels won the Sugar Bowl on New Year's Day 1970. There have been some moments the program was almost lifted to that point again, but they were few and far between.

Freeze and Bjork want it to become a much more frequent occurrence. All things considered, that can happen.

As good as things have become now and as promising as the future appears to be, it's almost hard to fathom the demise from consistent national prominence the Ole Miss football program suffered during the last four decades.

Keeping it where it is now and potentially moving it to an even higher level - like a top four national position heading into the playoffs - will be a challenge. But that's the goal of Freeze and Bjork, knowing the hurdles and pitfalls that are always there in college football while also having the understanding of what it takes to be in this position more often.

Bjork mentions consistency as a big key. Certainly it is as Ole Miss has shown signs of that already through these three football seasons. Each season, beginning with the 7-6 final mark of 2012, the record has gotten better.

Now they face likely their biggest bowl challenge in years with No. 6 TCU. The No. 9 Rebels will encounter either a Horned Frog team that continues to feel rejection and disappointment of not being invited into the final four teams, or they will be determined to prove they indeed were among the top four in college football this season.

The Rebels are usually up to the challenge of a bowl game, having gone 10-1 since losing to Michigan in the 1991 Gator Bowl. The lone loss was to West Virginia in the 2000 Music City Bowl.

No matter the outcome, the journey will continue and the message will remain the same. And Rebel Nation will be greatly anticipating the 2015 season as Ole Miss football moves forward together.

More from Bjork:

* On bowl ticket allocation and seating: "If you look at all the different layers, let's use the Chik-Fil-A Peach Bowl. It's a College Football Playoff site. So there is going to be great demand on that game even before the teams are ever selected. They have a season ticket base and they have sponsors. The teams themselves normally do not get a lot of great tickets. We had 12,500 to start with. We allocate that 12,500 based on the Ole Miss Athletics Foundation. We have a point system. It's well-established, well-publicized, and we have a system in place to allocate tickets. It just can't be a random first-come, first served. That's just not how we can do things. So within that system we have a point system that we allocate accordingly. We do have to take care of players, our coaches, internal needs. Then after that we assign our donors and our season ticket holders. So what we decided to do on the Peach Bowl was that if we had more orders than the 12,500, we thought we'd help Ole Miss fans out by getting more tickets. Those additional seats became upper level seats. In order to try to help our fans get in the building, what we should have done was to explain the expectation that we're getting more tickets and they're going to be in the upper level. You're not guaranteed a lower level seat. As the bowl games get more high profile, that's a lesson learned that we need to do a better job of communicating to our fans on the front end. We could have done a better job and should have done a better job of communicating the expectation. So we're going to learn from it and we'll do a better job in the future. We take responsibility."

* On any improvements at the baseball stadium: "Right now we're in a concept, visionary phase. What are the possibilities with baseball? That includes a lot of things: seating, player development, clubhouse. We're basically taking a broad look at it right now, knowing we have a great stadium and great atmosphere and people love it. One of the best in college baseball. Player development (facility improvements) is really a need for us right now, and so we're looking at how we accomplish that."

* On future football non-conference scheduling of Power 5 foes. Georgia Tech is set for a home and home in 2022 and 2023, while Wake Forest is on the slate for a home and home in 2024 and 2025: "We've got 2016 set with Florida State in Orlando. We need to plug in 2017, 2018, and 2019. What we're working on is a home and home in 2017 and 2019, and another neutral site game in 2018. Then we have to fill 2020 and 2021 with a home and home. We're close on some, and others are fluid with some good progress. Until it's done, it's not done. We worked on Florida State for about eight months, along with ESPN."

* On facilities progress in the near future: "The Pavilion is the biggest project in the history of the University in terms of dollar amount. You can see steel coming out of the ground now. Everything right now says we're on schedule. We didn't anticipate having a problem with the track, but the positive is that we'll have a brand new track surface, and we can tweak it based on current needs. As far as football practice fields, we'll have a 100 yard east-west field, and a 100 yard north-south field. We'll have a turf area on the far east side of the east-west field that can be utilized for drills. We'll have a kicking net over there. It will really be a cool setup. We'll actually have more square footage in this practice site than before (the parking garage was built on one). Hill Drive was moved west, so we can go east-west, and even south more than we have now. At the football stadium people will see (the completion of the current project of the) south end zone in 2015 and the north end zone in 2016. We'll have more lighting, better sound, three video boards, more concessions and restrooms. The fan experience will be improved, and we want everything to be perfect. We have plans for a better setup at the Gillom Center for the sports there. That project is a need, and that's important."

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