Ole Miss athletics director Ross Bjork said about $9,000 had been donated at RebelGiving.com to be used toward the $50,000 fine for storming the field after the Alabama game.
The SEC levied the fine against Ole Miss on Sunday in violation of the league’s policy that prohibits fans from entering the competition area.
It’s the third offense in three years for Ole Miss and should be the last, Bjork believes. He says a rising program should expect big moments.
“The mentality we have to have is that we’re done,” he said.
Here’s the text of the interview:
Bjork: “We know the rule, we know the policy. We’ve had it three years in a row. Mississippi State, the first one we had (2012) was obviously a big exhale for our program, then last year LSU. We had 400 or 500 people that came on the field last year. This is the third one. We follow the policy so we were aware it was coming. The commissioner called me yesterday afternoon and told me they would send a letter but that they would also release a statement last night. Normally they do these things on Monday. They wanted to get it out there because they had two of them, us and Kentucky.”
“The biggest thing is safety. We know the reason this rule is in place is because of safety. We also know that resources to stop 54,000 people is hard. We protected the Alabama team, we protected the officials and got them off as safely as possible. By all accounts we haven’t heard anything major. Then it was about, ‘Hey look. We’ve got to make this safe for everybody.’ Knowing that it’s a violation, knowing that there are risks involved. That was really the mindset that we took. Deploying resources to try to stop it is really not possible.”
“The mentality we have to have now is that we’re done. We had an exhale in 2012 with everything we’d been though. Winning on a last-second field goal against LSU was huge, and now obviously beating Alabama is huge, but now we have to come to expect this. In my mind we should not tear down goalposts. We should not storm the field moving forward. The expectation has to be that if you’re going to have a top five program, which is what we’re all about building, that you have to expect these moments are going to happen. We should celebrate in the stands and stay off the field moving forward. That has to be our message moving ahead is that safety is important, but expectations are also important, and that should be it.”
(Have there been injury reports?)
“A few injury reports. We’re still gathering a lot of that info. Some of those things are going to have to be reported to us because the medical folks are not aware of a few things, so we’re still kind of gathering information on anybody that may have gotten hurt, talking about the fans. I’ve spoken to the Alabama team, the staff. At the time they were not aware of anything. The same thing with the officials.”
(Has there been discussion about this sort of thing in SEC meetings? I understand what you’re saying moving forward, but to this point you’ve been OK with this.)
“It’s a balance to say OK with. It’s great celebration for your program. It means you’re doing something to cause this, but I think you also have to keep the safety part in mind. That’s really the intent of the rule, that safety has to be the priority. It’s not really discussed a whole lot in meetings.
“The rule was set back 10 years ago. People know the policy. They know the penalty structure that’s in place so now, any time it happens to us in the future it’s set at $50,000 each time unless we have no incidents for three years. That’s really the thought process at this point.”
“We’re going to review our security measures. We’ll review our field procedures. Again, everyone has resources. We decided to deploy our resources to protect Alabama, to protect the officials and make it safe for people we knew were going to come on the field.”
(How do you prevent it?)
“We have to continue to send out messages that our program is evolving. Yes we beat Alabama, they were ranked No. 1, but we’re not finished as a program. If you want to stay in that top five threshold of college football there should be no reason to storm a field any more. Those have to be the messages that we talk about, that coach Freeze and I talk about, that our student leaders talk about, that our staff talks about. Now we’ve got to flip the page. We play A&M then host a tough stretch. We have to get ready for the stretch run of the season.”