Tag Archives: Gary Ransdell

NOTES: Bjork ready to ‘dominate the Sun Belt’

As new Western Athletics Director Ross Bjork makes the move to Bowling Green, he’ll also meet another transition that will require some attention.

Bjork said he’s ready to attack Western’s move to Football Bowl Subdivision play and help leave 2009’s 0-12 record a distant memory.

“Moving up to FBS has its challenges, but we’re inspired by (Head Coach) Willie (Taggart’s) leadership and the coaching staff that’s here in place,” Bjork said.

Bjork said that the football team should have no problem recruiting with the facilities and resources at its disposal, and there’s no reason that the program shouldn’t “dominate the Sun Belt.”

“We’ve made the investment as an institution to move into that level, so the next hurdle is to be one of the top programs in the Sun Belt Conference, going to a bowl game on a consistent basis,” he said. “You talk about aspirations beyond that – it’s a process. We have to have patience. This is not going to happen overnight, because we know this takes time. “

Bjork also addressed both the men’s and women’s basketball programs, saying that he will sit down with Head Coaches Ken McDonald and Mary Taylor Cowles to discuss what needs to happen to top the Sun Belt again.

“The expectations are high,” Bjork said. “There’s no question that people expect success, and they expect some dominance here and to get us back to the NCAA Tournament on a consistent basis. That’s the norm around here.”

Bjork expecting community support

If there was one thing Bjork took away from his time as an Assistant Development Coordinator at Western in 1996-1997, it was that the community takes its sports seriously.

“I’ve told many people in my journey in college athletics that there’s no greater fan support per capita than Western Kentucky University – I really believe that,” Bjork said. “Again, the care factor is extremely high, so the passion and spirit for this program is really unmatched in my opinion.”

And it’s that spirit that Bjork said he’s counting on for increased revenue.

“Everyone can help us raise money in some way, shape or form,” he said. “They may not be in fundraising, but the presentation we make leads to people supporting us. We have to generate more resources in order to compete. We have to sell more tickets, we have to get more donors, we have to get more sponsors, so we’ll be out there aggressively seeking those new opportunities.”

Bjork said Western has a good head start towards the level of success he envisions, pointing to the $100 million in renovations used to give the campus and its athletic facilities a face lift over the past decade.

“The transformation kind of just blew me away,” Bjork said. “The facilities here are as nice as any BCS-level facilities. UCLA is UCLA, obviously – the four letters are very powerful. The facilities here rival if not beat a lot of the facilities we have at UCLA.”

Looking for a crowd

Bjork said Western must sell more tickets for football, basketball, baseball and beyond, and he plans to do that quickly.

He estimated that season attendance for Western football was about 18,000 last year with season ticket numbers around 7,500.

With Smith Stadium holding a capacity of 23,500, Bjork said he would like to see attendance evolve into a Western football game becoming a “tough ticket.”

“It’s the right size for that,” he said. “The way it kind of breathes into campus here is a great setting for families and for our consumers to come out and support the program.”

Bjork said he would also like to see larger support from the student body – especially when many live so close to the stadium.

“Getting them here shouldn’t be that hard,” he said. “We just have to provide the right access, we have to provide the right entertainment options for them to make it fun. Luckily they don’t have to go far, so we need to make it fun and easy for them to get in.”

Wisdom beyond his years

President Gary Ransdell was asked at Bjork’s introductory press conference if he was beginning a pattern of hiring younger people for positions.

The question seems justified, as Bjork is 37 and Taggart is 33. Both are the youngest at their positions among the 120 members of the FBS.

But Ransdell said age doesn’t matter to him as long as the person is right for the job.

“Age is a number. The important thing is, how do you correlate age with experience and commitment and talent?” Ransdell said. “Those are the things I look for. Age is not particularly a relevant factor for me. I’m interested in those other variables, and when I find those variables, age isn’t really a factor in such a decision.”

Bjork said that he’s had administrative responsibilities at all of his previous positions, and it’s been those experiences that have led to his success.

“Every chance that I’ve had in this business, I had AD-like experience,” he said. “I was in the room when decisions were being made, and those individuals gave me the opportunity to sit here today.”

Zach Greenwell

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VIDEO: Bjork introduced as WKU AD

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Bjork named as Western’s next Athletics Director

President Gary Ransdell introduces Ross Bjork as Western's new Athletics Director in the Topper Club at Houchens-Smith Stadium on Friday, March 12. Bjork said he was contacted soon after Wood Selig announced his resignation. TANNER CURTIS/HERALD

It’s been over a decade since Ross Bjork served as Assistant Development Coordinator at Western, making just $600 a month.

Now he’s returning as the big man on campus.

Bjork, who has been Senior Associate Athletic Director at UCLA for the past five years, was officially named Western’s new Director of Athletics during a Friday press conference in the Topper Club at Smith Stadium.

Bjork succeeds Wood Selig, who is leaving Western after 11 years for the same position at Old Dominion.

“There are big shoes to fill,” Bjork said. “We acknowledge that. We embrace that. We like to compete in everything that we do, so we are going to pledge again to work hard to make this program better.”

Bjork interviewed for the job during the Sun Belt Tournament in Hot Springs, Ark., last weekend, and President Gary Ransdell said he came away impressed with Bjork’s wealth of experience.

Between his first and most recent positions at Western and UCLA, Bjork was involved in athletic development at both Miami (Fla.) and Missouri.

“Sooner or later it’s going to come down to chemistry, confidence and trust, and Ross and I share that chemistry, confidence and trust,” Ransdell said. “Ross is ready. Ross has spent several years preparing for this job, and … I could not be more pleased.”

Bjork’s name has swirled around several AD openings in the last nine months — including UNLV, San Diego State and Marshall — but he said there’s a reason that he was passed over for those opportunities.

“I believe in destiny,” Bjork said. “I knew it would be an honor to work with (Ransdell), having no idea that Wood would ever leave, and then this thing just came together. It’s really just a dream come true to come back where you started.”

Several things have changed since Bjork’s last stay in Bowling Green.

Millions of dollars were spent on renovations to Diddle Arena, Smith Stadium and other athletic facilities, and Bjork said it was all a little overwhelming when he stepped on campus for the first time in 13 years on Thursday morning.

“I saw the baseball stadium, I saw the football stadium … and then I saw Diddle, and I said, ‘Where is this place?’” Bjork said. “It doesn’t look the same. I had followed the transition obviously, but I knew to get this job is very special because of the foundation and the things that had changed.”

Bjork has earned a reputation during his career as a proven fundraiser.

His team at UCLA raised a record $25.4 million in total athletic gifts during 2008-2009, and season tickets for both football and men’s basketball reached record numbers during his tenure. Donations also greatly increased during his time at Miami and Missouri.

“His experience in the external operations of an athletic department, including fundraising, was an important factor,” Ransdell said. “We needed to have that in this appointment.”

Bjork said that the athletic department will have to consider finances while also keeping its own house in order, and that he plans to be directly involved with fundraising and external development.

“We can’t ignore the internal stuff, because a lot of times, that may bring you down if you don’t pay attention to it,” he said. “I’ll be heavily involved in fundraising … so it’s going to be a priority to build those relationships and make sure we have the resources to be successful.”

Ransdell said that April 26 has been slated as Bjork’s starting day at Western, allowing Bjork to get everything in order back at UCLA.

He also said that the next month and a half will give Bjork and Selig some time to meet and create a smooth transition before Selig’s departure to ODU in early May.

But Bjork said he’s not looking to change Western overnight. He just wants to improve upon the work that’s already been done.

“Not a lot of things are broken,” Bjork said. “Some things are going to need to be tweaked, things are going to need to be analyzed, but there are not a lot of broken things here with his athletic program. It’s a great opportunity and a great foundation has been laid here.”

Zach Greenwell

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WKU Going NASCAR

With WKU in the heart of NASCAR country, they have caught the fever to put their logo on a car in the NASCAR Nationwide Series Federated Auto Parts 500 this weekend at Nashville Speedway. No word on how it got there, but kudos to Dr. Ransdell and Dr. Selig on getting the school’s name out there. Thanks to head football coach David Elson for the picture, via his Twitter.

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The Mount Rushmore of WKU

Because it’s a slow Friday and baseball hasn’t started, I thought we could provoke a little debate. Usually I’m not a big fan of ESPN’s promo gimmicks that they do from time to time. But this one has some merit and has the potential to really start some good debate, because you’re not comparing apples to oranges in terms of comparing players and coaches, yet you’re still looking for the best.

So if president Gary Ransdell were to commission a Mount Rushmore of WKU (and don’t rule out Ransdell commissioning something like that. The president likes his art–have you seen campus lately?), who would be on it?

There are probably at least two locks: E.A. Diddle and Jimmy Feix. From there, the debate begins on who the other two faces could be. Who’ve you got?

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