Tag Archives: Ross Bjork

Bjork announces personnel changes

Hey guys, football beat writer Zach Greenwell here. I just wanted to pass along something media outlets in Bowling Green received earlier today from WKU Director of Athletics Ross Bjork.

Bjork released a letter addressed to the athletics staff that details several changes and updates made throughout the department.

The most prominent of those moves is the promotion of Todd Stewart, former associate athletic director for communications, to Senior Associate Athletic Director.

The following is Bjork’s letter in full:

Dear members of the WKU Athletics Staff and Coaches,

 Greetings!  It has truly been a pleasure working with each one of you during my first 103 days here at WKU.  As I have stated numerous times, we have a tremendous and dedicated staff and I sincerely appreciate all of your hard work on behalf of WKU and Intercollegiate Athletics.  I hope all of you have been able to recharge your body, mind, and spirit by spending quality time with friends and family this summer.  Now that August has arrived, we quickly approach the start of our fall sports seasons and we will be seeing more of our student-athletes in the coming days and weeks ahead.  I know you share my excitement and anticipation for 2010-11 and our continuance of the Championship Effort required for us to exceed our past academic and athletic accomplishments. 

As we move into this time of year and the end of my initial transition, I want to personally inform everyone of a few noteworthy changes since we completed 2009-10.  First, as you know, we have upgraded our head coaching positions for men’s and women’s golf to full time status.  WKU is in the heart of a tremendous golfing community, and our programs have the great potential to benefit from the outstanding courses and community resources in the area.  I am confident we will see improvement in both programs with the proper full time leadership.  Most importantly, our student-athletes deserve the best program possible.  Pam Herriford is chairing the committee leading a national search to identify and hire the best candidates.  We anticipate having both positions filled near the start of the upcoming fall semester.

A lot has taken place during my first 3 months as we have been super active on campus, in the community, and out in the region – Spreading the Red, for WKU Athletics.   As I arrived at WKU, I felt it was extremely important that our mission and core values be clearly established for all of us to appreciate our true purpose and to crystallize that our beliefs should be centered within the University’s vision.  Therefore, I encourage you to view our new WKU Athletics Mission Statement and Core Values to take a look at how we will proceed forward.  As I told the Board of Regents last week, I believe in our resolve and commitment to our student-athletes and want to thank our administrative council (Pam Herriford, Craig Biggs, Todd Stewart, BJ Burton, Jim Clark, Darrell Horn, and Anita Madison) for crafting our new mission statement and core values. 

On the administrative front, I believe our department’s efficiency and overall operation will be enhanced by creating the position of Senior Associate Athletic Director – a definitive “number two” person for athletics.  I have chosen Todd Stewart to serve in this capacity to work directly with me and our administrative council on advancing WKU athletics on a daily basis.  Todd is the ideal fit for this role, as he has a solid understanding and appreciation of WKU Athletics coupled with 23 years of significant and unique experiences at multiple levels.  In addition to working at WKU the last two years, he also served four years as an Associate Commissioner with the Sun Belt Conference office, has 15 years of experience in the National Football League working with the Indianapolis Colts and Cleveland Browns, and worked two years in the University of Tennessee’s athletic department.

As the athletic department’s Senior Associate AD, Todd will serve as the second in command for all aspects of athletics and our 19 sponsored sports.  He will assist me in strategic initiatives that advance the mission of Athletics, serve as a critical advisor for all important decisions for the department, and help formulate and implement the department’s communication strategy, vision, and philosophy.  He will also assist me in the day to day management of football, men’s basketball, women’s basketball and baseball and will oversee all aspects of scheduling for football, basketball, and other sports as needed.  Todd will work in a strategic fashion with all External Relations including Ticket Sales, Development, IMG, and Marketing to create specific plans for revenue growth and new forms of communication and outreach.  He will continue to oversee all components of communications and media relations.  In addition to Todd’s new role, we are excited about the promotion of Michael Schroeder and the addition of Melissa Anderson to our media relations staff.

On the development front, we have hired Brandon Spurlock as our Assistant Director of the Hilltopper Athletic Foundation.  Brandon, who holds his BA from WKU, previously worked at WKU as a student manager with football and a student assistant with HAF in 2007. He will report to Jim Clark and be responsible for coordinating our Annual Fund Operations to recruit new members, renew current members, and ensure donor benefits are fulfilled.  Brandon will also help grow our Active Donor Portfolio, oversee special events for the Hilltopper Athletic Foundation, and assist in the management of the Diddle Arena Luxury Suites and the Topper Club at Houchens-Smith Stadium.  Brandon worked the previous two years as a Development Assistant at the University of Tennessee.

Matt Morrison, who has served as our Assistant Ticket Manager since October of 2008, has been promoted to Ticket Manager.  He will now be responsible for the management of all phases of ticket operations including ordering and distribution along with processing season and individual game ticket orders for football, men’s and women’s basketball, baseball, volleyball, soccer and softball.  He will also supervise the ticket office staff in processing both on site and mail orders and coordinate with HAF on all reseating and special projects. 

In order to be more proactive with our ticket sales efforts, we have created the position of Ticket Sales Coordinator and hired John Patterson.  He will report to Craig Biggs and be responsible for generating a new season ticket base, single game sales, and group ticket sales to all constituents of WKU athletics including database list generation and subsequent communication via cold calls, direct mail and other activities.  He will also help maintain the Ticketmaster computerized ticketing system and ticket sales records and assist the Marketing Department with the planning, coordinating, and implementation of the marketing strategies for ticket sales, special promotions, and sponsorships.  John previously worked at Vanderbilt University as an Athletic Ticket Office Associate, Marshall University, and was a football student-athlete at the University of Memphis.

There are numerous other coaching and staff hires that have also been completed this summer and we will announce all of the new employees at our August full staff meeting on August 31st at 8:00am.  I am excited and confident in our new administrative set up and the addition of our new employees as they begin their duties on the Hill. 

As you have heard me state before, if we only maintain, we fall behind.  Therefore, change is a consistent component of collegiate athletics and the announcements today will create greater opportunities for all of our staff and mainly our student-athletes, who we serve each and every day.  Continue to look for more exciting movement as we continue down the path.  I cannot wait until we kick off, get on the pitch, and spike the ball in Diddle Arena in the coming weeks.  Let’s have a great 2010-11 and I look forward to seeing and talking to all of you soon.  As Willie Taggart says: ‘Let’s all Chase Greatness and Catch Excellence in the Process!”

 Cheers to you,

 Ross

— Today’s post marks the Herald’s return to blogging and posting content. Sports editor Jonathan Lintner will have an update in the next few days on what the Herald’s future plans are and what new features we have in store this year.

As for me, I will be following football fall camp from beginning to end and plan on having fresh content from each day’s practice beginning next week, so be looking for that.

Until then, enjoy the weekend and thanks for reading.

-Zach Greenwell

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Selig comments on final days at Western

The transitional phase of Western’s Director of Athletics position will come to an end Wednesday when Dr. Wood Selig officially passes the torch to new AD Ross Bjork.

The Herald had the chance to speak with Selig Monday morning for likely the last time during his nearly 11-year administration, after which Selig will head to Old Dominion University to begin the same position.

He said that both transitions – Bjork’s migration to Western and his own to Old Dominion – have been comfortable moves, especially because he’s leaving on good terms.

“It’s unique within our industry that you’re able to work side by side during a transition with the individual whom you’re replacing,” Selig said. “But I think it’s also extremely beneficial.”

Selig said that he’s been impressed with how quickly Bjork is acclimatizing himself to the new position, giving him his full endorsement.

“He has an incredible drive to succeed,” Selig said. “He’s extremely intelligent, he’s been a very quick study. I think all those factors are going to serve him well, and I think he will be a fantastic athletic director for many decades.

“He’s just going to be outstanding for our profession. I don’t think the selection committee could have done a better job with their selection of Ross.”

Western athletics flourished in Selig’s 10-plus years at the helm, including 70 conference championships, a Division-II national football championship in 2002 and $100 million in renovations to campus athletic facilities.

Selig said that it would be unrealistic to think that he could leave Western after over a decade and not maintain a vested interest in its future.

But he also said that he didn’t think his attachment to Western will be any stronger than it will be in his first several years at ODU because his close relationships on the Hill will still be intact.

“Now, I know all of the head coaches, almost all of our student-athletes and the athletic administration,” Selig said. “Naturally, as turnover begins to take shape and the natural evolution of the department happens, there will be some distance come into play. But I’ll still always have a high affinity for WKU.”

Selig admitted that it will be disappointing to not see the football program’s jump to the FBS level reach the level of success that both he and President Gary Ransdell first envisioned.

He said it was mostly disheartening because he knows it’s “a matter of time” before the football program breaks through and is competitive in the Sun Belt.

“We generally don’t field or fund an athletic program without designs for it to be a championship-caliber program,” Selig said. “Football is no different. There’s a long-standing history of success in football here at WKU, and it’s just a matter of time before we get it back on that winning track.”

Selig will officially become Old Dominion’s new athletic director on June 30 when longtime AD Jim Jarrett retires after a 40-year career.

Selig will get the chance to work closely with Jarrett for a short time, just as he’s doing at Western now with Bjork.

When asked how he wanted to be remembered for his time at Western, Selig paused for a moment, then said that he hoped he had lived up to the expectations of everyone in Western’s athletic department and the fans.

“I would hope I was very approachable, easy to work with, an advocate for student-athletes and coaches,” he said. “I hope I’m remembered for high aspirations, high academic achievement, and never wanting to settle. Hopefully, they saw me as a hard worker with good balance and perspective.”

-Zach Greenwell

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Bjork making transition in first week as WKU AD

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.

-Zach Greenwell

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Bjork’s contract approved by WKU Board of Regents

Ross Bjork

The Western Board of Regents approved incoming Athletics Director Ross Bjork’s contract at its Thursday meeting.

Bjork will be paid a base salary of $185,000, and his first official day on the job will be Monday. The contract contains an option for a one-year extension to 2015 and a $100,00 buyout.

Faculty Regent Patricia Minter questioned why Bjork was being paid a base salary larger than outgoing Athletics Director Wood Selig, and President Gary Ransdell said that when filling a position, you typically have to pay more.

To view the contract as it was shown to the Board of Regents committees on April 2, click here. The contract was approved without change on Thursday.

Thursday’s meeting marked Selig’s last one at Western. Bjork was named as Selig’s successor on March 12.

Jonathan Lintner

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New AD Bjork preparing to head to Western

I just got off the phone with Western’s new Director of Athletics Ross Bjork, who said he will complete his final day of work tomorrow at UCLA.

Bjork said he’ll wrap up his time at the university by having breakfast with basketball coaching legend John Wooden and will then head to Western on Saturday, when he plans to hit the ground running before his official start date of Monday.

He said he will attend a student-athlete advisory committee meeting on Sunday night and plans to have breakfast Monday morning with a donor, President Gary Ransdell and current AD Wood Selig.

From that point, Bjork said he expects to work with Selig over his first week to begin the transition process.

“A lot of the stuff is broad-based in nature, but I also need to understand what conversations have taken place regarding scheduling, especially football scheduling,” Bjork said. “That’s a big deal and big component for the future of the program. I’ve seen the scheduling that’s in place for the next five or six years, but the holes that have to be filled — what conversations have taken place with certain programs out there?

“Otherwise, it’s just about how (Selig) views the future of the program, what were they doing in football ticket sales, what were they doing with the donor program, what they were doing with academics, and really just understanding each unit.”

Bjork said Selig’s input will be invaluable, especially because it’s likely to be a more candid dialogue.

“He was obviously overseeing it, so he’ll have a perspective,” Bjork said. “He’ll probably be able to take the filter off a little bit because he’s leaving, and so he’ll be able to give me some inner-perspective on what things need to happen.”

‘No comment’ not an option

I asked Bjork about a recent article written about him by Brad Wolverton for The Chronicle of Higher Education.

In the article, Wolverton, who has interviewed Bjork in the past, praised his work ethic and his accessibility to the media.

Bjork said he hopes his accessibility will be one of his most defining characteristics, especially in communities like Bowling Green and Western.

“I think that’s what the people will want,” he said. “That’s my style — to be accessible. With staff, coaches, athletes — I’m going to have an open-door policy. If somebody wants to see me, and I’m available, we’re going to sit down and talk about what’s happening.

“Same thing goes for the media. You have a job to do, and I respect that, and I have a job to do, and you guys will hopefully respect that.”

Bjork said he knows there will be times where he won’t be able to answer the media’s questions or he will have to wait to release information.

But he also said he doesn’t ever plan to issue a “no comment.”

“I don’t think that’s appropriate,” Bjork said. “I think the right thing to say is, ‘That’s a great question, but we’re not prepared to answer that yet,’ or, ‘We have a plan in place so that when we’re ready to answer that, you guys will have all the information.’”

Keeping up with the times

Bjork said that he has been following several situations at Western while finishing his tenure at UCLA, commenting on the recent Red-White spring football game and the baseball team’s 24-8 win over Kentucky last night.

But he also said he’s become aware — at least in some degree — to the developments in Western’s tailgating policy.

Bjork said he was informed of the dissatisfaction with the old policy during his interview for the job, and that he had reviewed the recent changes that had been made.

“In our business, college athletics, you have to compromise,” he said. “I was pleased to see that they talked to a lot of different groups and a lot of different constituents to get everyone’s feedback and not make the decision in a vacuum. That’s how we have to operate, so I was please that it unfolded that way.”

Bjork said that people do have to understand, however, that increased attendance numbers at the stadium will mean disruptions to traffic flow and parking.

“But that’s a good thing,” he said. “If we’re having these problems, that’s a good thing because people care about what’s happening on game day.”

Bjork’s contract will be brought up for final approval at the Board of Regents meeting on Thursday.

He’s expected to receive a base salary of $185,000 in the contract, which will run from Monday through 2014. The contract contains an option for a one-year extension to 2015 and a $100,000 buyout.

-Zach Greenwell

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Bjork’s contract up for approval at April 22 Regents meeting

Ross Bjork

Incoming Atheltics Director Ross Bjork’s contract is still proposed — not official — and will be presented for a vote at April 22’s Board of Regents meeting.

The contract passed through the Board of Regents committees last Friday, chief of staff and general counsel Deborah Wilkins said, and should be approved at the Regents meeting.

Wilkins said all but four Regents were at last Friday’s committees meeting, adding that any chance for changes in the contract before the Board of Regents votes are “slim.”

But Wilkins said nothing is official yet.

The proposed contract begins April 26 and runs through 2014, when Bjork will be paid a base salary of $185,000 annually. The contract contains an option for a one-year extension to 2015 and a $100,00 buyout.

Bjork, currently finishing his tenure as senior associate athletic director at UCLA, was named as outgoing Athletics Director Wood Selig’s successor on March 12.

To view the proposed contract, click here.

Jonathan Lintner

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Bjork will earn $185,000 base salary

Chief of staff and general counsel Deborah Wilkins told the Herald Friday that newly introduced Athletics Director Ross Bjork will earn a base salary of $185,000.

Wilkins said Bjork’s contract will be up for approval at the Board of Regents meeting this April, and that the end product should turn out to look much like Wood Selig’s current contract.

After getting a $34,000 raise in January, Selig’s base salary jumped from $141,000 to $175,000.

Jonathan Lintner

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