OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi and Athletics Director Ross Bjork have agreed in principle to a contract extension that will keep him at Ole Miss through 2019 at a base salary of $650,000 with $100,000 in academic and on-the-field performance incentives.
This extension, announced Friday by Chancellor Dan Jones, adds a year to Bjork’s contract, reaching the four-year maximum allowed by the state of Mississippi.
“I’m pleased to have a renewed commitment to Ole Miss from Ross,” Jones said. “All of us are grateful for his remarkable leadership, not only in athletics but far beyond.”
Since his arrival at UM in 2012, Bjork has provided outstanding leadership to Ole Miss athletics programs. Under his direction, Ole Miss has reached new heights in athletics support, with record private donations, an increase in athletics budget to $92 million for the 2015-16 season and record-breaking attendance numbers in football, basketball and baseball.
“When I was hired in 2012, Sonya and I quickly realized what the Ole Miss family already knew: Ole Miss and Oxford make up a very special place, the perfect blend of academics, social life and athletics,” Bjork said. “Furthermore, we have been deeply moved by all of the support we have received from the Ole Miss family over the past three years and feel like we’ve been embraced with open arms every step of the way. Sonya and I are extremely humbled by the university’s confidence in athletics leadership by awarding a new contract and we look forward to hitting our stride as an athletics program.
“I am eternally grateful to Chancellor Dan Jones for not only bringing us to Ole Miss, but more importantly, his transformational leadership and unwavering support of athletics. Personally, Sonya and I will miss Dan and Lydia’s presence on campus, and we will always value their friendship. While a transition in leadership creates some uncertainty, there is no doubt the best days are yet to come for Mississippi’s flagship university. Together, we have a bright future as we continue to build on the success in academics, athletics and fundraising.”
Ole Miss student-athletes and fans have experienced immediate success in competition under Bjork’s direction. For three consecutive years, the Rebel football team has made a post-season bowl appearance, the Ole Miss baseball team made its first appearance in 42 years at the College World Series in Omaha last season and Ole Miss men’s basketball claimed the 2013 SEC Tournament Championship and has earned two NCAA Tournament appearances. Other teams to reach post-season play include soccer, men’s and women’s tennis, track and field, and women’s golf. Ole Miss pole vaulter Sam Kendricks claimed back-to-back NCAA national championships in 2013 and 2014.
In the past 12 months, UM was the only Division I university to place a team in the College World Series, a New Year’s Six bowl game and the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.
However, Bjork’s leadership reaches far beyond the playing field. He has placed a strong emphasis on academics, and the university’s student-athletes have responded, reaching a record average GPA of 2.96 in the fall of 2014. Moving forward, Bjork’s goal is to have student-athletes average a 3.0 GPA.
He also has been actively involved in other university activities, including the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation; the Big Event, the university’s largest community service project; and RebelWell, a campaign to promote health and wellness among the Ole Miss community.
Bjork also has led efforts to expand and renovate athletics facilities with the Forward Together campaign. Construction of the new 9,500-seat Pavilion at Ole Miss is expected to be completed for SEC basketball play next season. The athletics department plans to break ground late this year on an expansion of the north end zone of Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, adding 3,500 seats to stadium capacity. Other projects led by Bjork include renovation of the Gillom Sports Center, FedEx Academic Support Center and Starnes Athletic Training Center, and the restoration of the Ole Miss Track & Field Complex.
“Everyone in the Ole Miss family will continue to be asked to do their part as we take the next step towards graduating all of our student-athletes and competing for and winning championships,” Bjork said. “The journey continues. We are Ole Miss.”
Bjork and football Coach Hugh Freeze will embark on the BancorpSouth Rebel Road Trip beginning April 19 in Houston, Texas. The five-state, 13-city tour will allow fans to hear what’s new and exciting in Ole Miss athletics and have an opportunity for photos and autographs. Men’s basketball Coach Andy Kennedy and women’s basketball Coach Matt Insell will join them at select stops.
For a full schedule and tickets, visit http://www.olemisssports.com/.