By John Davis
Special to the Journal
Two years ago, Ross Bjork was named Ole Miss Athletics Director. He entered his job with the Rebels coming off back-to-back losing seasons in football, and facing a fan base for the first time that didn’t know what to expect from him, or Hugh Freeze, who was also heading into his first year as head coach.Thursday morning’s breakfast at The Inn at Ole Miss was just another stop on the 2014 edition of the Rebel Road Trip. Bjork was joined at the event by Freeze, men’s basketball coach Andy Kennedy, who introduced Freeze as Ed Orgeron, as well as women’s basketball coach Matt Insell.
Bjork talked highly about the event, and the other stops, that have also included Dallas and Jackson, Tenn., just to name a few.
“We keep saying it, but to get out in front of people, on their home turf, and keep saying that we need you, we’re inviting you, keep coming, that’s mean a lot to them because we are asking them to come to us,” Bjork said about the road trip overall. “You’ve got to do it, especially (in Oxford) because people care so much. I think that’s been our message. People care, so we need to be out, we need to see people and the energy has been off the charts at every stop.”
Ole Miss opens the 2014 season against Boise State in Atlanta’s Georgia Dome. The game will be on ESPN in a prime-time television spot and Bjork thought the game would benefit the program in a multitude of ways.
“I think it was great foresight to sign this contract in 2010 because neutral site games are becoming much more prevalent. It helps build your brand. They’re typically going to be on primetime for the nation to see. We’re on ESPN on a Thursday night to kick off college football so it helps give you exposure. You’re playing in an NFL stadium, so your players are going to be hyped up about that,” Bjork said. “Atlanta is obviously the destination you want to get to at the end of the year. Recruiting … it all fuels itself and now that we’ve had some success, you can say ‘Hey, check us out.’”
Bjork called the second game against Vanderbilt in Nashville “a home away from home” for the Rebels. The team’s last game in 2013 was at LP Field, site of the contest with the Commodores. Bjork said he first heard about the possible move to where the Tennessee Titans call home back in December from Vanderbilt’s AD, David Williams.
“When they approached us, obviously it’s their home game, it’s in the same city, so we love the fact that we get to play at LP Field because we believe we will have a lot more fans there, access to tickets. Again it’s back to an NFL stadium so it helps from a hype standpoint for the players and we were just there and had some success on that field,” Bjork said. “We didn’t really have a say so in the decision, but when David Williams mentioned it to me back in December, I said we’re in. It was their call, but if you need our permission or asking us, we’re in. We had no issues.”
Post by John Davis, Sports Editor of Oxford Citizen