Forward Momentum: Bjork excited about overall sports programs at OM
Editor’s Note: This is the first of a two-part series with Ole Miss Athletics Director Ross Bjork as the 2016-2017 gets underway.
By John Davis, Sports Editor
There is a lot of excitement surrounding the 2016 football season, and many of the other sports Ole Miss competes in on a yearly basis.
Athletics director Ross Bjork, the man in charge of keeping that part of the university heading in the right direction, feels like all the sports programs are starting to hit their stride.
“When you look at what is happening with volleyball starting off this weekend and soccer off to a 2-0 start already, there is lots of momentum in both of those programs,” Bjork said. “Soccer is ranked in the top 25 and finished in the Sweet 16 last year and a lot of our pieces are back in action. In volleyball, we’re still rebuilding under Steven (McRoberts) but there are a lot of great pieces there and playing in the Pavilion will be exciting. It’s a great venue and I know a lot of people like going in there so it will be neat for a lot of people.”
When it comes to the Ole Miss football Rebels, who enter the season ranked No. 11 in the Associated Press Top 25 poll, excitement is a word that barely describes the fan base.
“You can argue, because the numbers are there, that we’ve never had more support for the football program than what we have right now,” Bjork said. “There are over 57,000 season tickets sold. More students will be watching our team play than ever before. We’ll have a new stadium, a new field, got new lights, new sound, new video boards, just a brand new experience inside Vaught-Hemingway. I think there is a ton of excitement for Ole Miss Athletics in a broad way. The momentum is strong and we have to keep it going.”
Ole Miss will host Wofford in the new-look Vaught on Sept. 10. Construction is just wrapping up, and Bjork said that the final week in August was a key one from a finishing standpoint.
“There will be a lot of things completed. The bigger equipment will be moved out and our parking lots will start to be cleaned up and finished up and the construction fences moved out,” Bjork said. “Our team, I think, is laser focused right now. I just love the mentality of these guys and the coaching staff right now. They just seemed to be locked in and really centered on getting off to a great start with this season and competing for a national championship. They’re not afraid to talk about that. I think the commitment level to the little things is something I’ve seen and it’s at an all-time high since I’ve been here.”
This is Bjork’s fifth football season in Oxford and he really praised the leadership of the coaching staff and that of the seniors, and veterans.
“They are really committed to having the end result be what they want and I think that’s remarkable,” Bjork added. “That’s preparation physically, preparation mentally. Just having confidence in their approach has been really, really exciting to see just from an overall leadership standpoint. I think the sky is the limit.”
As Vaught-Hemingway Stadium gets wrapped up with construction, so has the work at the Ole Miss track. The final touches of color were being finalized at the start of the week, and the plan was for the athletes to be back out there at the end of the week. Ole Miss can now claim to have the newest track in the SEC, and during the welcome back with the student-athletes on Sunday night, Bjork talked to those associated with the track program about their new surface.
“The seniors, their freshmen year, the track was down and now they’re going into their senior year with a new track. So despite the challenge of the last two plus years, they’re message was ‘Hey, look, we get to run on a brand new track in our last year,’” Bjork said. “How exciting will that be to be the first senior class to run on this track and have it be first class. The track that got shut down was not the best at that time and now we can truly say we have the best and the newest track and field surface in college athletics. I think it will be a point of pride and we’re excited about the new elements like the video boards. The throwing area is much better with new netting. It’s just more developed as a track complex and more comprehensive and I’m so excited to see the faces of our track athletes when they start working out on it.”