Monthly Archives: April 2010
Herald Sports Editor Jonathan Lintner and I had the chance to sit down with new Western Director of Athletics Ross Bjork for the first time today.
Bjork said he attended his first meeting today involving the full athletic department staff, which former Western AD Wood Selig kicked off before “passing the torch” to Bjork.
“I didn’t lay out a whole lot of agenda items, if you will,” Bjork said. “From my standpoint, right now people just need to get to know to me, and I need to get to know them.”
Bjork has been working with Selig this week to help smooth the transition into the new administration.
He said that he likes to be prepared for anything, but he has already encountered a few situations that he hasn’t addressed in previous positions.
“There’s probably two or three things that I haven’t dealt with personally, but having Wood here (has helped),” Bjork said. “Wood’s invaluable from that standpoint. I don’t think anything’s like, ‘Oh my gosh, here’s an avalanche of surprises,’ but a few things have popped up.”
Bjork went back to a statement he made at his introductory press conference, where he said Western “wasn’t a fix-it job.”
He said he still stands by that comment, especially because there are no urgent needs in terms of coaching hires or personnel changes.
But he also said there will always be things that need to be tweaked or analyzed.
“In the global perspective, this job isn’t broken,” he said. “This athletic department is cruising along quite well and will continue to cruise along, but are there little buckets of things that we have to address? Of course, there always are.”
FBS provides a ‘shot’
Bjork has made it clear in several interviews that he was greatly enticed by the opportunity to take over a department with a Football Bowl Subdivision football program.
He said today that a football program at the FBS level can be beneficial in many ways, from fundraising to fan support to broader markets.
“To me, if you’re playing FBS football, you have a shot,” Bjork said. “And when I say you have a shot, you have a shot to gather support, which means you can build resources and grow the program as you go forward.”
With Houchens-Smith Stadium now at a capacity of more than 22,000, Bjork said that the program will have to branch out into the surrounding areas where a strong fan base can be developed.
That process will begin with the planned “Toppers on Tour” campaign in June, when Bjork said that several Western coaches and student-athletes with travel along with him to seven surrounding cities to promote the school and its athletics.
“We’re going to try to spread the message,” he said. “I’m new, Coach Taggart’s new, Coach McDonald is relatively new, and we’ll try to get Mary (Taylor Cowles) out there and Chris Finwood.”
Meeting the donors
By now, most are aware of Bjork’s reputation as a proven fundraiser.
He said he’s already hit the fundraising trail hard, speaking with donors at functions over the past few days.
Bjork also said that a big part of increasing external resources will be increasing staff size, starting with an opening in development that he plans to fill soon.
But as the new guy on campus, Bjork said he doesn’t want to just be seen as the person who’s looking to provide a financial windfall. He said he needs just as much time to acquaint himself with the academic, compliance, marketing and sales sides of the job.
“Everything’s a priority,” Bjork said, laughing.
Basketball schedule update
Bjork also mentioned in passing the 2010-2011 men’s basketball schedule, which he said will likely be completed near the end of the summer or the beginning of the fall semester.
He said there still wasn’t much he could comment on yet, but that Western’s contract with Southern Illinois has been renewed for a four-year agreement, and a contract had also been finalized with Bowling Green State.
The Toppers also have confirmed home games with Louisville and South Carolina next season, and Bjork said the department is still in talks to try to complete some “big-time” agreements for the future. Bjork said the Louisville game should be played just before Christmas, and he expects the official schedule to be released sometime in July.
Mercy guard Therese Montano will not be a Lady Topper.
A source told the Herald Wednesday that Montano will honor her commitment to Bellarmine University in Louisville — a decision Montano said she had to make by today — and sign to play for the Knights.
Montano and another Mercy guard, Ellen Sholtes, visited Western last week and attended the Lady Toppers’ basketball banquet with the team. The Bowling Green Daily News subsequently reported that Sholtes had committed, but Montano didn’t make her final decision until this week.
Montano’s decision to play at Bellarmine now sits Head Coach Mary Taylor Cowles a scholarship below her desired No. 13 — a mark Cowles said she’d like to hit heading into the 2010-2011 season.
This Saturday’s Western-Troy game is one of two left in the regular season that can be seen on TV, according to WKU media relations. The game will air in Bowling Green on WKYU and elsewhere via CSS on the Sun Belt Network.
The Toppers and Trojans begin play at 3 p.m. CT.
Western’s regular-season finale against Middle Tennessee on May 22 will also be aired on the Sun Belt Network.
Due to predicted severe weather, the Lady Toppers’ softball game against Middle Tennessee State has been moved to 6 p.m. on Thursday, April 29. The game was originally scheduled for 5 p.m. Tuesday night.
Just as Western had to do with a pair of games against Evansville, it has canceled Wednesday night’s game against Eastern Kentucky — originally scheduled for 6 p.m. at Denes Field.
The game, which will not be rescheduled, now drops the Toppers to the NCAA’s maximum games played threshold for a season. Most teams overbook a schedule expecting some games to be rained out. That wasn’t the case for Western this season.
With no mid-week games left on the schedule, Western closes the season with four Sun Belt Conference weekend series leading up to the Sun Belt Conference Tournament on May 26.