COLUMN: If anyone wondered how Ross Bjork would handle his first tough patch as Ole Miss’ new athletics director, the decision to relieve Adrian Wiggins and two of his staff members from their jobs Saturday showed he has the leadership to turn the school’s programs around.
It was a tough decision for Bjork to have to let go the first coach he put his stamp on. He and Wiggins are the same age and both have families to take care of. There were a lot of similarities between the two. If there was ever a reason to give someone a mulligan, Bjork could have done it right here and nobody would have said anything.
But that’s not what he did simply because that’s not how Bjork is going to run Ole Miss. It’s one thing for a man — when he is first hired at a high-profile position — to say he’s going to be transparent and say he is going to make tough decisions and run a clean program with integrity. All of that sounds good at that initial press conference but putting those words, or ideas similar to that, into action is a completely different deal.
What Bjork did Saturday and what he followed up with on Monday showed he is not willing to sacrifice Ole Miss’ integrity to possibly win a few more games or give the first coach he hired a pass because of the actions of his two assistants.
“We have no findings at this time that Coach Wiggins was involved in our violations, however, ultimate responsibility lies with each head coach in all of our programs and we discovered that more could have been done,” Bjork said Monday. “The actions of those few individuals are severe in nature and we want all the answers as soon as possible so we can move on and understand the magnitude and start the healing process for our program. The last six months we’ve demonstrated pretty clearly that we were transparent in our communication. The tough part about all of this is that Adrian Wiggins is a good man. We hope the best for him and his family as we move forward.”
Bjork and his staff have been transparent and accessible in relation to positive issues at Ole Miss regarding athletics. He has remained consistent even when there is unfavorable news to report about a certain program.
The message sent by Bjork this past Saturday and then re-iterated Monday should be crystal clear to the rest of the head coaches: You are responsible for everything that goes on under you. Simply not knowing what an assistant is or isn’t doing does not suffice. Investigations by the SEC or NCAA or both will not be tolerated. The standard has been set by Bjork of what Ole Miss athletics will be moving forward. He talked about it when he was hired and he’s already put it into action.
No one knows what the future holds for the Ole Miss Lady Rebels today. There could be sanctions coming from the NCAA down the road. Regardless of what happens or what else is uncovered in this ongoing investigation, I feel certain in saying Bjork will make the right decisions and lead like he has since he came to Oxford, with transparency, character and integrity, just like a true leader needs has to. (October 23, 2012, Page 6)