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Past President Testimonial: Ross Bjork

June 18, 2018

#NAADD25th: In honor of NAADD’s 25 years of commitment to the development of collegiate athletics, NAADD will be featuring the full testimonials of Past Presidents throughout 2018.

Here is the full testimonial from June’s featured Past President, Vice Chancellor for Intercollegiate Athletics at the University of Mississippi, Ross Bjork.

A native of Dodge City, Kansas, Bjork earned his bachelor’s degree in recreation administration from Emporia State University, where he was a two-year starter at fullback. He earned a master’s degree in athletics administration from Western Illinois and began his administrative career at Western Kentucky University (WKU) as an assistant development coordinator in 1996-97. Since then he’s had an extensive career in intercollegiate athletics with more than two decades of experience as an administrator, having worked on senior staff at UCLA, the University of Miami and the University of Missouri. Bjork arrived in Oxford after a stint as director of athletics at WKU. 

Upon his arrival at Ole Miss, Bjork reorganized the external relations structure of the department, headlined by a new partnership with multi-media rights holder, IMG Properties, and the rebranding of the Ole Miss Athletics Foundation. He is responsible for the creation of the Health and Sports Performance unit, which combined sports medicine, strength and conditioning, nutrition and counseling services.

Bjork’s vision has permanently transformed the Rebel athletics footprint in Oxford. The basketball programs moved in January 2016 with the opening of the $94.5 million Pavilion at Ole Miss. More than $65 million was infused into Vaught-Hemingway Stadium including a new field club, new and renovated suites, a natural grass playing surface, and new a sound system, lights, entry plazas, and three new video boards. These enhancements improved the Ole Miss game day experience while increasing capacity at Vaught-Hemingway by nearly 4,000. Bjork has also overseen the development plan for the Manning Center, which saw the facility renamed to honor Olivia and Archie Manning while undergoing a $12.5 million renovation and expansion. A $13 million overhaul of the Gillom Center was completed in 2017, a new $11 million indoor tennis facility opened in January, and a $20 million baseball project will be concluded this year.

Ole Miss has enjoyed unprecedented support and success under Bjork’s leadership. The Rebels have set season attendance records the last six seasons, while season ticket sales reached four straight sellouts. Rebel baseball finished second in the nation in attendance in 2017, while softball also experienced a record-breaking year for attendance in 2017.

The athletics budget has increased from $57 to $113 million in just five years, and the Athletics Foundation established a record year for donations with $45.6 million in cash contributions in 2015-16. The Forward Together capital campaign has risen from $62 to $174 million in cash and pledges toward its increased goal of $200 million.

He is a member of the chancellor’s leadership team and has served on numerous committees, including the search for a new chancellor and the naming of Chucky Mullins Drive. At the SEC, he serves as Chair of the awards committee and represents the SEC on NCAA men's basketball oversight committee and the NCAA transfer working group.

Here is what Ross had to say about NAADD:
Why should someone become a NAADD member?
NAADD can change your life. You will meet other leaders in college athletics who will become lifelong friends and colleagues. All of the relationships I have in athletics can be attributed in one way or another through my first NACDA/NAADD Convention in 1997.

What has NAADD meant to you?
My professional platform and career path to the athletics director position is in large part to my connection to NAADD. Without my presence on the NAADD committee in the early 2000’s I am not sure that people in college athletics would have recognized my abilities or saw my leadership potential. It was a great platform to give back to college athletics and allow me to grow my career.

What impact did your time as NAADD President have on you as a professional?
I was grateful to serve and be selected by my peers. It was a great leadership opportunity on a “big stage” at an early part of my career. I believe it showed others around college athletics that people believed in me and I could lead on a broad level. I also have lifelong friends from my time on the NAADD committee which will be the most cherished impact in my professional career.

What is your fondest memory of serving as NAADD President?
My fondest memory is hosting the 2006 NAADD executive committee summer meeting when I worked at UCLA. We were fortunate to have lunch with Coach John Wooden and spent time learning leadership lessons from him. Despite Chris Wyrick embarrassing himself, it was a great luncheon and once in a lifetime experience for the committee.

How do you see NAADD progressing in the next five years? The next ten years?
Private funding in college athletics has unlimited potential so our enterprise will rely on fund raising more and more each year. NAADD will provide the platform for professional development and best practices so that our profession can be the best it can be in this space. We will also continue to hire the best talent for our fund raising position and having connections with NAADD will set people apart.

Check back on Thursday as NAADD will recap the seven Past President Testimonials released so far in the #ICYMI #NAADD25th. The seven #PastPresidentTestimonials will lead into #NAADD18 in D.C.

Stay up-to-date on the 25th Anniversary celebration and all things NAADD related by following @NAADDevelopment on Twitter by using the hashtag #NAADD25th and #PastPresidentTestimonials.

About NAADD: NAADD is the first organization of its kind to provide educational and networking opportunities, enhancement of acceptable operating standards and ethics, and establishment of the overall prestige and understanding of the profession of athletics development and fund raising. For more information about NAADD, please visit www.naadd.com. NAADD is administered by the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACDA), which is in its 53rd year. For more information on NACDA and the 17 professional associations that fall under its umbrella, please visit www.nacda.com.