Ross Bjork, who has worked the last five seasons as the Senior Associate Athletic Director for Development and External Relations at UCLA, has been named Western Kentucky University's Director of Athletics, President Dr. Gary Ransdell announced Friday. Bjork has 18 years of intercollegiate athletics experience as an administrator and student-athlete, having also worked on the senior staffs at the University of Miami and the University of Missouri. He also served as Assistant Development Coordinator at WKU in 1996-97. Bjork will replace Dr. Wood Selig, who is leaving WKU to serve as Director of Intercollegiate Athletics at Old Dominion University. Bjork will be the youngest Athletics Director among the 120 members of the Football Bowl Subdivision.
"We are very pleased to welcome Ross back to WKU as our new Director of Athletics," Ransdell said. "We had an extremely impressive pool of candidates for this position, which speaks to the respect this university and athletic department have nationwide. After narrowing our list of candidates and then conducting interviews in Hot Springs last weekend, it became evident that Ross was unquestionably the best person to lead our athletic program. We have enjoyed unprecedented success in many areas under Wood Selig's direction, and I have the utmost confidence that Ross will help us continue to raise the bar of success. He has an extensive array of experiences, and he has a proven track record of major accomplishments on a high level at multiple universities. He has made a significant impact everywhere he has been, and we are moving forward with the right man leading the WKU athletic department."
"It is truly a dream come true for me to return to WKU as Director of Athletics, and I would like to thank Dr. Ransdell and the search committee for the confidence they have placed in me," Bjork said. "This is a vibrant university that continues to excel and reach new heights each year under the leadership and guidance of Dr. Ransdell and the Board of Regents, and it is an honor to return to WKU. I have enjoyed following the Toppers closely ever since I worked here, and the combination of championships, high graduation rates and major facility improvements that Dr. Selig and this athletic department have accomplished is very impressive.
"WKU's legendary history and this program's foundation have enabled a high level of success to be achieved in many areas. Success of this magnitude cannot be sustained without a total commitment from student-athletes, coaches, the administration and the community. We will continue to strive for excellence in everything we do, and I am looking forward to the tremendous opportunities that lie ahead. We are also truly inspired by the tremendous support of the Hilltopper nation, and we look forward to building and sustaining lifelong relationships with as many WKU constituents as possible. Our family cannot wait to settle into the Bowling Green community."
At UCLA, Bjork directed capital fund-raising, The John Wooden Athletic Fund, Bruin Varsity Club, major gifts, marketing, promotions, ticket sales, branding, licensing, merchandising, corporate sponsorships, ISP Sports, radio rights, television rights, web site, and other sources of revenue generation.
He was involved in all strategic initiatives and major decisions for Bruin Athletics. Total giving to Athletics doubled in his first year and season ticket sales for football and men's basketball have increased to record totals. In 2008-09, his team raised a record $25.4 million in total gifts for athletics. He directed the creation of the John Wooden Athletic Fund and established the Campaign of Champions Capital Campaign to raise the funds to renovate legendary Pauley Pavilion. His team also launched the branding initiative, Champions Made Here, to serve as the department theme for UCLA Athletics.
Bjork served on the senior staff and worked directly with the Track & Field program as sport supervisor and dealt with all coaches and athletic staff in major initiatives to benefit athletics. He also served as the day to day liaison to University Development, the UCLA Alumni Association, and other units on the UCLA campus. Bjork led the ISP Sports transition into the UCLA community and the Los Angeles market where they tripled sponsorship sales and revenue in the first four years.
Bjork came to UCLA on September 1, 2005, from the University of Miami, where he spent two years on the executive staff and oversaw all revenue production for the Hurricanes. During his time at Miami, he directed the search process for hiring Frank Haith as the men's basketball coach, served as the day to day liaison with men's basketball, was the department contact for the University President's office, secured the naming rights for a $52 million on-campus arena, re-negotiated Miami's Nike and Gatorade contracts, and increased total giving to Miami Athletics.
Prior to his tenure at Miami, Bjork spent 6 ½ years at the University of Missouri, where he oversaw all development operations that raised record funds each year. Total giving increased from $2.1 million in 1996 to $16 million in 2003. Bjork also directed the sales campaign of the football suites' project and implemented the seating program for Missouri's new basketball arena. He oversaw the generation of $88 million in donations for the Champions for Life Capital Campaign. Bjork was an Athletic Development Officer in 1997 and promoted to Assistant Athletic Director in 2001.
Bjork has also served as Campus Recreation Graduate Assistant and Athletic Department Volunteer at Western Illinois University, Marketing Intern for the University of Tulsa, Front Office Intern for the Albuquerque Dukes, and Student Volunteer for Athletics at Emporia State University.
Bjork, 37, is a native of Dodge City, Kan., and received his bachelor's degree in recreation administration from Emporia State University in 1995 where he was a two-year starter at fullback. He earned a master's degree in athletic administration from Western Illinois University in December 1996. Bjork is respected nationally by his peers and is Past-President of the National Association of Athletic Development Directors (NAADD). His wife, Sonya, is the Director of Donor Relations for the UCLA Foundation. They have a son, Payton Ross, born April 14, 2006.
The Bjork File
Born: October 22, 1972
Hometown: Dodge City, Kansas
High School: Dodge City Senior High School
College: Emporia State University (B.S., Recreation Administration, 1995); Western Illinois University (M.S., Athletic Administration, 1996)
Children: Son, Payton Ross (3)
Bjork's Career Timeline
2005-10: UCLA, Senior Associate Athletic Director for External Relations
2003-05: University of Miami, Associate Athletic Director for External Operations
2001-03: University of Missouri, Assistant Athletic Director for Development
1997-2001: University of Missouri, Athletic Development Officer
1996-97: WKU, Assistant Development Coordinator
1995-96: Western Illinois University, Campus Recreation Grad. Asst./Ath. Dept. Volunteer
1995: University of Tulsa, Marketing Intern
1994: Albuquerque Dukes, Front Office Intern
WHAT THEY ARE SAYING ABOUT ROSS BJORK
Dan Guerrero, UCLA - Director of Athletics
"This is a great opportunity for Ross and we couldn't be happier for him. During his four-plus years here at UCLA, we have seen measurable improvement in our fundraising, sponsorship and other revenue generating efforts. Recently, Ross has been a key component in the success of the Campaign of Champions for Pauley Pavilion. As a member of my senior administration, Ross has proven to be well-versed in all of the various areas of an athletic program, including sport supervision, budgeting, marketing, donor relations and fundraising. He has worked hard to prepare himself for this opportunity and is ready to sit in the Athletic Director's chair. He is a rising star in our business and I know that he will do a great job for Western Kentucky University. We wish Ross and his family great success in this new endeavor."
Wood Selig, WKU - Director of Athletics
"I congratulate Ross on his being named WKU's next Director of Athletics. I have known him for many years and have a great deal of respect for the impact that he has had everywhere he has been. He has worked for some outstanding leaders in our profession, and I know he is ready for this great opportunity to lead WKU athletics. I am very proud of all that we have accomplished in the last 10 1/2 years, and I am confident that Ross will enable WKU student-athletes and coaches to continue to produce a Championship Effort on a consistent basis and sustain our successes on and off the playing field. Ross and his family will love this community, the community will greatly enjoy the Bjork family, and I wish them all the best."
Mike Alden, University of Missouri - Director of Athletics
"I am a huge advocate of Ross Bjork and his family, and WKU has certainly hired a terrific person as their new Director of Athletics. He has gained tremendous experience at Missouri, Miami and UCLA. He has great leadership and team building skills and just has a great overview of college athletics in general. He has great core values and will be focused and locked on to the student-athlete experience in a positive way. Ross will be a terrific complement to Wood Selig and will be able to keep the momentum going following all the great things that Wood has accomplished and put in place."
Joe Castiglione, University of Oklahoma - Director of Athletics
"I am a huge Ross Bjork fan, and I want to congratulate WKU, President Gary Ransdell, and those involved with making this decision. They have really hired a person who will prove to be an outstanding leader. He is very passionate about his role and responsibilities, stays true to his core values, and is a person of extremely high integrity and character. I remember when we hired Ross at Missouri after he had previously been at WKU. He started from scratch, totally transformed our development office, and annual giving and capital gifts reached an all-time high at that point for the University of Missouri. I knew then that Ross was going to be very special and he has proven that again and again with each opportunity he has been given. I am honored that I have had a chance to be a part of his career, and I feel a great deal of pride in his many accomplishments. I wish him all the best at WKU."
Frank Haith, University of Miami - Head Men's Basketball Coach
"I have known Ross for many years and I have every confidence that he will be an outstanding athletic director for Western Kentucky. He is a charismatic, high-energy professional with the dedication and passion integral for leading a department to even higher levels of achievement. Without a doubt, he is a "can-do" administrator who has shown he can make things happen in every job that he has held. He was instrumental in my getting an opportunity at the University of Miami, and from my personal experiences with Ross, I know he will be a great advocate for WKU's student-athletes and coaching staff."
Gary Pinkel, University of Missouri - Head Football Coach
"I'm very happy for Ross and his family; this is a great step in his career path. I enjoyed working with him during his time at Mizzou; he was always someone I looked at as a problem-solver. If there was an issue, he would roll up his sleeves and figure out a way to make it happen for the benefit of everyone. He was a valuable part of our team at Mizzou, and I'm confident that he will do great things at Western Kentucky. They have a person here with great integrity and passion for athletics, and for doing things the right way."
Pat Battle, IMG College - Senior Corporate Vice President
"At IMG, we have had a long and positive relationship with both Ross and with Western Kentucky. I first knew of Ross when he was originally with WKU and have worked with him closely at Missouri, Miami, and UCLA. He is a leader in collegiate marketing and development and will be a tremendous asset to Western Kentucky. Ross is a rising star in the college athletics community, and I can't imagine a better fit for both Ross and the University."
Dutch Baughman, Executive Director - Division 1A Athletic Directors' Association
"On behalf of the Division 1A Athletic Directors' Association, it is a real pleasure to congratulate Western Kentucky University, and Ross Bjork, on his selection as the Director of Athletics. We have been very impressed with Ross, as he has worked very hard to develop the necessary professional skills to be considered for this position. Ross has earned the reputation and respect of our profession for his ability to lead an intercollegiate athletics department. He displays a genuine and admirable balance between his professional ability and his personal character."