Ohio State Hires Ross Bjork As Athletic Director

By Dan Hope on January 16, 2024 at 4:03 pm
Ross Bjork
UM Communications Photography

Ohio State has officially hired its new athletic director.

Ross Bjork, who has been the athletic director at Texas A&M since 2019, officially accepted the job on Tuesday. 

Bjork will become the new leader of Ohio State’s athletic department in July. He’ll replace Gene Smith, who will start his retirement at the end of June after 19 years as Ohio State’s athletic director.

“Few athletics directors have established such an impressive and strong record of success in athletics, in the classroom and throughout the community,” Ohio State president Ted Carter said in a news release. “The bar is incredibly high at Ohio State, and we have found in Ross a highly intelligent and effective leader – not to mention a fierce competitor.”

Bjork will be formally introduced as Ohio State’s athletic director during a press conference Wednesday at noon.

Ross Bjork’s Career History
Years School Title
1996-97 Western Kentucky Assistant Development Coordinator
1997-2001 Missouri Athletic Development Officer
2001-03 Missouri Assistant AD for Development
2003-05 Miami (Florida) Associate AD for External Operations
2005-10 UCLA Sr. Associate AD for External Relations
2010-12 Western Kentucky Athletic Director
2012-19 Ole Miss Athletic Director
2019-24 Texas A&M Athletic Director

“I have been extraordinarily fortunate to work with so many outstanding student-athletes, coaches, staff and university leaders throughout my career, and Ohio State represents the culmination of these efforts,” Bjork said in Ohio State’s release. “To be a part of Buckeye Nation, along with its storied traditions and long history of achievement, is a tremendous honor and a welcome challenge. I can’t wait to get started.”

Ohio State will be the fourth stop for Bjork as an athletic director following stints at Texas A&M, Ole Miss and Western Kentucky. Bjork also previously worked in the athletic departments at UCLA, Miami (Florida) and Missouri. A native of Dodge City, Kansas, Bjork played football at Emporia State University and has a master’s degree in athletic administration from Western Illinois.

Bjork, who is 51 years old, was the youngest athletic director in the FBS when he was hired by Western Kentucky in 2010. He spent two years in that role before moving on to Ole Miss, where he spent seven years before taking the job in College Station.

While Bjork does not have any direct ties to Ohio State or the Big Ten, his mother is a native of Williamstown, Ohio, and “remains an ardent supporter of TBDBITL,” per Ohio State’s announcement.

“To be a part of Buckeye Nation, along with its storied traditions and long history of achievement, is a tremendous honor and a welcome challenge. I can’t wait to get started.”– Ross Bjork on becoming Ohio State’s athletic director

Bjork is known in college athletics circles for his ability as a fundraiser, one of the most important roles of an athletic director at a major university. In College Station, Bjork spearheaded Texas A&M’s efforts to create one of the nation’s top NIL operations, so continuing to build up Ohio State’s NIL operation will likely be among his top priorities once he arrives in Columbus.

Bjork leaves Texas A&M with mixed reviews in large part because of his decision to give Jimbo Fisher a fully guaranteed 10-year, $95 million contract extension in 2021. That didn’t stop Bjork from firing Fisher this past November, leaving Texas A&M on the hook for $75 million.

Bjork, who hired Mike Elko to replace Fisher after a coaching search in which Texas A&M nearly hired Kentucky’s Mark Stoops first, told WFAA in November that the Fisher contract extension “was a mistake as we look back on it” and that he would look to give coaches incentive-heavy contracts going forward.

In Oxford, Bjork led a substantial growth in athletic department revenues as Ole Miss’ annual revenue doubled from $57 million to $117 million. He drew scrutiny there, however, for his handling of an NCAA investigation into the football program that ultimately led to major sanctions against the Rebels, including a two-year bowl ban and the vacation of 33 wins.

Nevertheless, Ohio State determined that Bjork was the best candidate to be its new athletic director after a months-long search for Smith’s successor. Ohio State interviewed multiple candidates – including Washington State athletic director Pat Chun, an Ohio State alumnus who was initially viewed as the frontrunner for the job – before ultimately settling on Bjork as its hire.

“The college athletics landscape is changing each day, and Ohio State was firmly committed to finding an athletics director who would lead us with confidence and innovative thinking into the future,” Hiroyuki Fujita, chair of the university’s Board of Trustees, said in a statement. “Ross Bjork possesses all the qualities we had envisioned – and more – and I am thrilled to welcome him to our Buckeye family.”

Bjork will be the ninth athletic director in Ohio State history.

“Ross is uniquely equipped to step into our Buckeye community and make an immediate impact,” Smith said in Ohio State’s release. “As I have said, Ohio State has afforded me the professional opportunity of a lifetime, and I am forever grateful. My final, important project over the next several months will be to work with Ross to ensure a smooth and effective transition with our student-athletes, coaches, department staff and university leaders.”

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