Ross Bjork

A conversation with Texas A&M’s Director of Athletics

By Adam Quisenberry

What attracted you to Texas A&M?

My mentality has always been to be at a place that is relevant and can have success. As I’ve evolved in my career, I’ve wanted to be around the best athletics department in the country. Being a student of college athletics and looking at A&M from afar, it was one of those places you looked at and say, ‘They have a great university, a passionate fanbase and have figured out how to run college athletics at a high level.’ I wasn’t looking to leave Ole Miss, but when you get a call from one of the best, if not the best athletics departments in the country, you have to look at it. It was really about being around the best and the state of Texas has a lot of power to it, not only for the job, but for my family. Texas A&M is the total package –successful, high-level university and family life.

In the short time you’ve been in Aggieland, what have you learned about Texas A&M?

I’ve been really impressed that, even though it’s a big place, it’s still a place built on relationships. I think that is what sets this place apart. We have all the size and the power in terms of resources and an amazing foundation, but there is so much room to grow. It still comes down to relationships and how we’re all connected. I’ve been really impressed by that and how everyone here goes out of their way to embrace you.

“If you look at the reputation of Texas A&M Athletics around the country, people believe we have the best fundraising organization in college athletics with the 12th Man Foundation. Our donors make that happen and really set the course for us.”

Ross Bjork

What are some of your priorities as Athletics Director?

I’ve always been a relationship-first Athletics Director, so it’s been a big priority to me to get to know the people and the place before you draft your plans and cast a vision. Of course, our vision is to be the best athletically and academically, but until you really get a feel for the people and the place, it’s hard to implement a plan. The term servant leadership is something I try to keep in mind because we’re here for our student-athletes. We serve them and that has to be the No. 1 priority we have and everything else falls underneath that. Resource acquisition and building is another priority. At Ole Miss, I’m proud that we built over $200 million worth of athletics facilities and we did the same on a smaller scale at Western Kentucky. All of that happens because you build strong relationships and keep student-athletes at the core of your mission.

How important are donors to the success of Texas A&M Athletics?

If you look at the reputation of Texas A&M Athletics around the country, people believe we have the best fundraising organization in college athletics with the 12th Man Foundation. Our donors make that happen and really set the course for us. I’ve been really impressed with the engagement and knowledge level of our donors. They understand how college athletics works and are willing to help us. Not every place has that. Obviously, we talk about the passion and how much people care about Texas A&M. There really is an unconditional love and that right there is a great start because the conversation becomes us casting a vision, communicating a need and showing how it will impact our student-athletes. The passion is already there, and it’s our job to fuel that passion. I’ve been really impressed with our donors. We really can’t thank them enough because they’re the lifeblood of what we do every day.

What is your message to Aggie fans and former students who want to get more involved and make an impact?

My mantra is that we ask people to give to their full potential, whatever that is. For some people that might mean only being able to buy a ticket and attend one game a year. We’ll embrace and celebrate that. Other folks might be in a position to make a major gift or become members of Champions Council, but the point is that everything adds up. Part of our challenge is to figure out how to embrace everyone so that they feel they are making a difference. We certainly have the platforms –for as low as $150 you can be a member of the 12th Man Foundation and even have the option to spread that out monthly –so our job is to make sure we’re spreading that message and that everyone feels like they’re impactful to our mission.

As a former student-athlete yourself, how can a scholarship change the life of not only a student-athlete, but future generations to come?

I’m one of those ‘but for athletics’ folks because without athletics I certainly would not be in the position I’m in today. There are countless stories like that, but if not for an athletic scholarship, this person wouldn’t have had the opportunity to go to college or set themselves on a path of success. I don’t think I would have because my parents didn’t have the means to do it. That’s what is so inspiring about the work we do. We get to change lives and see young people reach their full potential through athletics. Because of a scholarship and the way donors fund our programs, we’re able to pass that along and create the next generation that will be impacted in a positive way by that opportunity.

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