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Bjork Talks Hoops On Studio 18 Live

Studio 18 Live - March 19, 2014 from Ole Miss Rebels on Vimeo.

Athletics Director Ross Bjork recaps the 2013-14 men's and women's basketball seasons and shares his thoughts on Auburn hiring Bruce Pearl as men's basketball coach.


Bjork Reflects On 10-Day Nike Asia Tour

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For more than a decade, Nike has invited college administrators to see their factories that they contract with and see how the company does business in Asia. 

This past month, Ole Miss' Ross Bjork was among the group of five athletics directors and three representatives that toured Nike overseas facilities in Vietnam and China. Bjork was joined on the 10-day tour by Tom Bowen (Memphis), Scott Leykam (Portland), Dr. Hans Mueh (Air Force) and Rob Mullens (Oregon). 

"For Nike, it's an education to make sure everyone is comfortable with the process and how we do business in Asia," Bjork said. "You have these big contracts with a university to outfit their teams and their product. It's a great thing for Nike to do this to make sure that we know how they conduct themselves and that we feel comfortable with them."

Bjork flew out of Memphis on Jan. 15 to Chicago and then to Tokyo and finally to Ho Chi Minh City, the largest city in Vietnam and the first stop of the tour, where the group took day trips to nearby villages and toured two Nike-contracted factories. 

From Ho Chi Minh City, the group traveled to three cities in China, starting with Guangzhou, which Bjork described as a city of factories, before wrapping up the trip with stops in Shanghai and Beijing and then flying home on Jan. 25.

"Nike is very conscientious about factory and working conditions and making sure they're partnering with the right companies who operate these factories," Bjork said. "They are conscientious about labor and workers' rights. I knew that before the trip, but until you actually see it and walk on a factory line, you can't really understand it."

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It was not just a clearer, first-hand understanding of Nike and their work in Asia, Bjork said, but also an appreciation for the people of Vietnam and China. 

"I learned perspective and appreciation for the freedom we have in the United States but also great respect for what those people have to go through to live in China and Vietnam and go about their business under the same values and principles that we have, but in a much more controlled environment," Bjork said.

Bjork was also impressed with how Nike and their contracted factories have similar business fundamentals, in terms of vision statement, purpose and core values. The difference is how they present them, which Bjork said they might emulate and try to bring to Ole Miss.

"The one thing that I was impressed with was the visual presentation that they do in these factories around their core values and mission," Bjork said. "When you walk in the front door of the factory buildings, they had vision statement, purpose and core values on the wall. We talk about those things here, but they visualize it.

"If you walk in our building, we don't have our perspective up. That's one thing that I want to look at here is to maybe visualize in our buildings what we stand for and how we operate. I was very impressed with that. Whether it was China or Vietnam, the factories all had their purpose and vision in full display."

Moving forward, Ole Miss has a full apparel contract with Nike, a seven-year deal that started on July 1, 2012, which Bjork noted was negotiated and in place before he was named athletics director on March 21, 2012. 

From his observations and conversations on the tour with Nike and factory staff, Bjork said he is pleased with Ole Miss' relationship with the company, as well as their relationship with Kit Morris, Nike's Director of College Sports Marketing and an Ole Miss graduate.

"I see our Nike relationship evolving and growing because we have great relationships with Kit, his staff and his team," Bjork said. "Our equipment staff has a great relationship with the people at Nike. 

"I see the relationship evolving and growing over the life of the contract, but also as you look to the future and what happens after 2019. Nike is a great partner, and we'll see what happens as we get closer to that point."

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Ole Miss landed back-to-back top-15 classes for the first time in school history dating back to the first recruiting rankings in 2002. It was a consensus top-20 class, ranked as high as No. 14 (247Sports.com). 

The 27-player signing class included 14 high school and junior college All-Americans and five consensus four-star prospects, as well as offensive lineman Rod Taylor, who is listed as a 5-star prospect by 247Sports.com and a 4-star prospect by the other three major recruiting services.

After head coach Hugh Freeze's signing day press conference, I caught up with Ole Miss Athletics Director Ross Bjork to recount the day that was for Ole Miss football.

On the importance of signing day to the football program and the athletic program as whole:

"This day is really about the whole cycle of a football program, where you have fall practice, then you have the season, then you have the postseason, and then you go into signing day, and then you go into spring practice. This is another way to sell the program at the highest level. We know we have to get players, and so our coaches go out and do that. 

"To me, it's part of the big cycle of college football, and it becomes another holiday mixed in with all of the things that we do to run a high-level football program. The attention and coverage is great, and it lifts the entire athletic program to see what our staff has done the last two years to recruit at the highest level."

On this year's class compared to last year's class:

"Last year was so different and so unique because of the connections we had with the number one player overall, number one offensive lineman and number one receiver. It's different, and what's great about today is we had no surprises. 

"The less drama you can have on signing day, the better. We had a couple of battles at the end, but the less drama, the better. To me, today was perfect, and this is how you want it to go every year, where you're recruiting a high level but you have no surprises in a negative way. Our staff did a great job."

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Head coach Billy Chadwick will step down at the end of the 2014 season, and associate head coach Toby Hansson was named his successor and will take the reins of the program following the season.

"Coaches in waiting, we've seen that a lot but it doesn't really work in a whole lot of places," athletics director Ross Bjork said. "We had a definitive timeline and a definitive decision, and why not go through the season where we can celebrate Billy but also prep Toby because he's ready and he's capable."

With Chadwick's endorsement, Ole Miss interviewed Hansson and came to a decision to make him the next head coach in August. Continuity was also a key part of the decision, as Hansson enters his eighth year with the program.

"We went through a process where we analyzed Toby," Bjork said. "We interviewed him. We talked about recruiting and what we need to do to continue to build the program. He checked the mark on all of them. It's the right decision for the program."

An integral part of the program's success over the last seven years, Hansson knows the program in and out, and it's a dream job for the Uppsala, Sweden native and former SMU All-American.

"I had gotten some offers from other schools for different jobs," Hansson said. "When this came up, obviously this is a dream job for me. And I'm just really excited about it. I'm glad to be here." 

In Hansson's tenure at Ole Miss, the Rebels have won five SEC West Championships, the regular season SEC Championship and two SEC Tournament Championships. Hansson is regarded as one of the top coaches in the country in developing players and has helped produced the most All-Americans in the country (11) during his tenure at Ole Miss.

"Toby is one of the top young coaches in the country," Chadwick said. "We have been very fortunate, and a lot of our success stems directly to him. For him to take over the program, we're not going to have a bump in the road. The program is in great hands. 

"You never find anyone that does not like Toby. He's extremely likable, and at the same time, he's a good disciplinarian, and he knows tennis. He's one of the best tennis minds in the country."

Hansson has learned a lot from working with Chadwick, particularly making the players feel comfortable and create a family atmosphere with players from across the country and around the world.

"When the players come here, it's a new place," Hansson said. "Making them feel comfortable and developing them is one of the biggest keys to success."

"I'm really happy for Toby," said sophomore Stefan Lindmark, a native of Stockholm, Sweden. "He's a really great coach as well. He really loves the game. He's so into it, but that makes us even more pumped to work hard for him."

By making the announcement before the 2014 season, it's a way to have a parade for Chadwick's legendary career throughout the season, as well as give Hansson an extended period of time to find an assistant coach for when he takes over following the season.

"I got some really big shoes to fill, and I'm going to take it step by step," Hansson said. "We have a big season ahead of us, so right now, that's where my focus is."

"We know that good things are headed for us, not just in more hardware for the university, but great student-athletes and lives changed," Chancellor Dan Jones said. "It's a great day for Ole Miss."


Ross Bjork - 2013 State of Ole Miss Athletics from Ole Miss Rebels on Vimeo.

In case you missed it yesterday, above is a message from Director of Athletcs Ross Bjork on the state of Ole Miss athletics. Below are some key points:

Record-high $26 million in cash donations to Ole Miss Athletics Foundation
- Student-athletes recorded a 2.87 cumulative GPA and participated in more than 20 service projects
- Ole Miss Athletics will partner with the William Winter Institute for a Racial Reconciliation week this fall
- 810,000 fans attended home events last season
- Forward Together capital campaign received $22 million in new gifts
- Ole Miss Athletics budget will increase from $62 million (2012-13) to $70 million (2013-14)
- Next month, Ole Miss Athletics will relaunch the Forward Together campaign, with an updated basketball arena design and location, preliminary look at the new North End Zone design and project timeline for the master plan
- This year, Ole Miss Athletics will host a live, weekly show that will be streamed on OleMissSports.com

Bjork To Speak At Jackson TD Club

Ole Miss Athletics Director Ross Bjork will be the featured speaker at the Jackson Touchdown Club meeting Monday, Oct. 29.  The meeting begins at 6 p.m. at the River Hills Tennis Club located at the intersection of Ridgewood Road and Lakeland Drive.

Bjork_061212a_JB.jpgAdmission for non-members and guests is $30.00.  Space is limited.  For additional information, contact Glen Waddle, Secretary of the Jackson Touchdown Club, at 601-506-3186, or visit the club's website at www.jacksontouchdownclub.com.

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