By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
As Ole Miss chancellor Dan Jones pursued an athletics director through the winter months, there were lots of names involved. Two of the most prominent ones had strong ties to Ole Miss.
The ultimate winner, Ross Bjork, did not.
Ole Miss has had a reputation in the past of not looking very far outside its own circle to fill key positions.
I had a former employee once tell me he felt a greater “sense of family” at Ole Miss than at any other place – and there had been quite a few – where he’d worked.
It’s interesting to note in the first two hires of the Bjork Administration have produced two very different hires along the family lines.
Bjork was only marginally involved in both hires, but they will be remembered as ones he signed off on.
Bjork himself had been introduced as athletics director only days before the announcement of Adrian Wiggins as women’s basketball coach.
Though he’s been settled into the big chair for a few months now, Bjork did not chair the committee that recommended Brian O’Neal as track and field coach on Tuesday.
These are not major hires under the category of where most passions lie. They’re just interesting.
In the effort to resurrect a once-proud women’s basketball program, a committee chaired by Lynette Johnson turned to Wiggins, an Oklahoma native who has spent his entire adult life west of the Mississippi, most of it far west in Fresno, Calif.
Wiggins was highly successful at Fresno and has gone about putting together a class – heavy on junior college players – that suggests an immediate talent boost.
O’Neal has spent all of his career, except for the past four seasons at Florida, at Ole Miss. The Pontotoc native said he needed to move away and experience something different. Tuesday he was all smiles to be back.
Jones has gotten positive reviews for the hiring of Bjork. There were “family” candidates whose work histories suggest they could have come in and been strong hires as well.
When an “outside” hire is made it’s generally followed by a somewhat different approach when the work-day boots hit the ground. The newcomer Bjork has been different from his predecessor, Pete Boone, in his eagerness to meet with fans.
The success of his tenure will be judged not by Wiggins and O’Neal but in how he helps baseball return to competing for championships, how he helps basketball reach the NCAA tournament(s) and how he revives football.
What the recent hires – including Bjork’s – show us, though, is that right now it’s not about where you’ve been but where the hiring voices believe you can go.
Parrish Alford (firstname.lastname@example.org) covers Ole Miss for the Daily Journal. He blogs daily at Djournal.com.