(Oxford, MS)-Ross Bjork, athletics director for Western Kentucky University, has been named the next Director of Athletics at Ole Miss, Chancellor Dan Jones announced today. Bjork, who will take over for retiring AD Pete Boone in mid-April, spent five years as a senior associate athletics director at UCLA before joining WKU as AD in 2010.
Bjork will be formally introduced at a Thursday press conference, and fans can watch the event live at 4 p.m. CT in a free webcast on OleMissSports.com’s RebelVision.
Jones cited Bjork’s professional skills, energy, integrity and operational skills among the key attributes that led to the selection of the new Ole Miss AD.
“I’ve spent a lot of time with him,” Jones said. “Integrity and character are important to me, and I’m very comfortable with his strengths on those attributes. I’m also very pleased with the professional track he’s taken in college athletics. He has trained for this job through his education and a steady, upward track in athletic administration, and he’s demonstrated a commitment to Ole Miss and to winning on and off the field.”
Former Ole Miss quarterback Archie Manning, who co-chaired the search committee, said he expects Bjork will quickly gain the respect of the Ole Miss fan base.
“Ross will bring incredible energy to the Ole Miss family, and I’m looking forward to seeing that grow,” Manning said.
Manning added he had to smile when he learned that Bjork’s son Payton is named for a “high-achieving Mississippian” named Walter Payton.
Search committee co-chair Mike Glenn, executive vice president of marketing development and corporate communications for FedEx, said he is “particularly pleased by the experience in athletic program leadership that Ross brings to Ole Miss.”
The committee, with the assistance of search firm Eastman-Beaudine, interviewed numerous candidates for the position. In the end, Bjork was chosen based on his many years of experience as an administrator and student-athlete.
At UCLA, Bjork is credited with directing capital fund raising, marketing, promotions, ticket sales, branding, licensing and merchandising. Total giving to UCLA athletics doubled in Bjork’s first year, and the university saw record season ticket sales for football and men’s basketball games.
Prior to his time at UCLA, Bjork served on the executive staff for the University of Miami athletic program, where he oversaw all revenue production for the Hurricanes. He also served more than six years at the University of Missouri, where he oversaw development operations and saw record donations each year.
His proven track record in each position is a major benefit for Ole Miss, Jones said.
“I see in Ross a serious commitment to winning and a willingness and ability to make the tough decisions that are sometimes required to win,” Jones said. “That’s an important attribute in a leader and one that’s uncommon in athletics directors with two years at the helm of an athletic program.”
Jones said, “He has a long record of serious attention to compliance and academic excellence, and he sees athletics as an integrated part of the total university. Academic excellence was a key part of his program at Western Kentucky, and he demonstrated measurable improvement there.”
Bjork expressed excitement and a strong sense of purpose in taking the job, saying that his main priorities will be to provide the ultimate environment for student-athlete success and bring Ole Miss fans together. “Ole Miss has a rich and vibrant athletic culture, and I want Ole Miss Athletics to continue to excel in every aspect,” he said. “It’s time for us to capture the aura, tradition and passion of the Ole Miss family, in order to provide the necessary resources for our student-athletes to excel on and off the fields and courts.”
Bjork has also served as campus recreation graduate assistant and athletic department volunteer at Western Illinois University, marketing intern for the University of Tulsa, front office intern for the Albuquerque Dukes, and student volunteer for athletics at Emporia State University.
Bjork, 39, is a native of Dodge City, Kan., and received his bachelor’s degree in 1995 in recreation administration from Emporia State University, where he was a two-year starter at fullback. He earned a master’s degree in athletic administration from Western Illinois University in December 1996. He and his wife, Sonya, have two sons, a five-year-old named Payton and a one-year-old named Paxton.