WKU Director of Intercollegiate Athletics Ross Bjork answered 5 questions related to WKU and college athletics in general:
Q: How do you go about making decisions? What do you take into account?
A: “I think it is critical that we adhere to our core values when we make decisions. We are not going to make everyone happy all of the time, but I hope when we do make decisions that people understand our core values and understand why we made certain decisions. We want people to know that student-athlete welfare, academic integrity and remaining competitive on the playing field are always our main focus in determining how we operate. It is important for our fans to know this, so they understand what our focus is when we do make decisions and why we are making them. We are also in the process of reviewing our athletic department mission statement and revising our current core value list so that our departmental goals and objectives are consistent with each.”
Q: How important are television contracts in college athletics?
A: “Very important. It really comes down to a desire to maximize dollars and programs determining how they can help themselves financially and secure their long-term future. Everyone involved in conference realignment was looking at how they could make their program better if they were able to secure a new TV deal. At WKU, we are very fortunate to have a fantastic television partnership. Through an arrangement with the Hilltopper Sports Satellite Network, Fox College Sports and Direct TV, over 30 live broadcasts of WKU basketball games were syndicated nationwide in 2009-10, making the Hilltoppers one of the most televised programs in the nation. WKU games and coaches shows reach 47 of the nation’s top 50 markets and in excess of 25 million homes on a consistent basis. This results in tremendous nationwide exposure for us.”
Q: Where does WKU stand relative to a potential conference shakeup?
A: “We are proud members of the Sun Belt Conference and are focused on making the league better. However, our mission is also to continually do what is best for WKU and to examine how we can continue to improve our own athletic department from where we sit today. I think we are attractive and in a favorable position because of our history, our legacy, our success, our administration, our fan and community support, and our branding on a national level. Our success the last few years on the national stage, especially after going to the ‘Sweet 16’ in men’s basketball in 2008 and going into the second round the following year has made us appealing in many ways. There is a perfect blend of academic and athletic success here at WKU.”
Q: How important is marketing in college athletics?
A: “You have to be strategic and targeted in your thinking. You have to be a visionary, but you also have to be able to sell that vision and put it together. You are always promoting and always thinking about how you can grow and continue to get better day in and day out. Our budget at WKU is not as large as some other universities, so we always have to be on the cutting edge. We have to be visionary and have creative and cost effective methods to reach our target audience.”
Q: How important is football at WKU?
A: “Houchens-Smith Stadium is our biggest venue, so we have more opportunities to sell more tickets and get more people involved because we have 23,000 seats. That produces a higher volume of fan interaction, more volume of activity around Bowling Green and the region, and more people wearing merchandise. Therefore, the more people we have invested in football the greater number of people we are exposing to WKU athletics. Fans who attend a football game may stick around for a soccer game or a volleyball match. Our home opener this year against Indiana will be televised live on the Big Ten Network, which is available in up to 75 million homes nationwide and in 19 of America's top 20 media markets. This is unprecedented exposure for our football program with many other parties also benefiting. A successful football program really helps the entire athletic department, the university, and Bowling Green.”