News of Ross Bjork’s departure from Ole Miss must have set some kind of Internet speed records on Thursday night.
The report came first from The Dallas Morning News, then other Texas outlets, and then the Daily Journal as able to confirm that the Ole Miss AD of seven years was on the move.
Early reaction from social media was mixed. Some called the loss “huge” for Ole Miss, others not sweating the sudden opening at the school’s top athletics position.
Bjork’s time will be forever remembered for the NCAA investigation that he practically inherited. He didn’t hire women’s basketball coach Adrian Wiggins, whose staff’s indiscretions created the investigation that became much less about women’s basketball and track and field and much more about football.
Not holding back
Bjork’s approach of complete cooperation with the NCAA during the investigation drew criticism from some Ole Miss fans.
It may be oversimplifying things to say that an AD’s main responsibilities are to hire winning coaches and raise money, but those are two huge components of the job.
And let’s be real: It’s to hire a winning “football” coach and to raise money.
Bjork was committed to supporting his coaches with salaries and resources and to holding them accountable.
He fired Andy Kennedy, the winningest basketball coach in school history, and hired Kermit Davis – who took the Rebels from a losing season in 2018 to the NCAA tournament in 2019, being named SEC Coach of the Year along the way.
Bjork, I believe, was on course to have serious discussions with Mike Bianco, the winningest baseball coach in school history and third in all-time victories in SEC history.
When former football coach Hugh Freeze was fired as improper relationships came to light, Bjork promoted interim coach Matt Luke after Luke went 6-6 for the 2017 season.
It was not a hire that united the fan base, but after the Rebels went 1-7 in SEC play in 2018 Bjork gave Luke the cash to make big-name coordinator hires in former Pac-12 head coaches Rich Rodriguez and Mike MacIntyre.
The ultimate success of Bjork’s football hire is still TBD, but there’s no denying his success with fund-raising.
He helped Ole Miss move past an aging eyesore of a basketball arena, Tad Smith Coliseum, and into a sparkling new state of the art arena in The Pavilion at Ole Miss.
He spearheaded the move to increase premium seating and bowl-in the football stadium and also invested heavily into baseball facilities and venues for softball, volleyball and other sports as well.
With the placement of The Pavilion next to Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, Bjork spoke often of creating a “front door” for Ole Miss athletics. The letterwinner walk, bell tower and open spaces with seating outside The Pavilion provide an attractive, inviting look for the school’s two biggest sports.
So, how will the Ross Bjork Era be remembered?
That may depend on where football goes from here.