Newly hired Texas A&M athletic director Ross Bjork expects to team up with football coach Jimbo Fisher for a winning combination, leaning on their lessons learned as players when Bjork was a fullback at Emporia State and Fisher was a quarterback at Salem and Samford universities.
“When I talked to Jimbo, I thought it was really cool that here you have two small college football players, and you know what, playing small-college football, that takes a certain mentality,” Bjork said Monday. “We didn’t have the nicest things. You don’t play in front of a whole lot of people, but you played for the passion of the game.”
They both still have plenty of passion. Fisher has talked about winning championships since A&M hired him from Florida State in December 2017.
“When I talked to Jimbo, I said, ‘You know what? We’re both cut of the same cloth,’” Bjork said. “We’re small-college football players who know how to work hard, who know how to have a positive attitude, who know how to grind in this business of college athletics. So to me, it’s a partnership. We’re going to lock arms. We’re going to have the same kind of vision — that we can win, and we know we will win championships, and I say plural.”
Fisher is one five active coaches who have won a national championship.
“There’s not many of those guys out there in college football,” Bjork said. “So my job is going to be to lock arms with him, go hand in hand, to fight and work and scratch and claw and build the program that we know we can at a place like Texas A&M.”
Bjork plans to do that with all the coaches.
“Our coaches and student-athletes should be faces of the program,” Bjork said. “And my job is to steward and lead them through all of that.”
The 46-year-old Bjork had been at Ole Miss since 2012 and wasn’t looking to move but said this type of job doesn’t come along often.
“When you get a call from a program that is top five or potential to be top five in some areas but already there in other areas, you have to listen,” Bjork said. “You have to embrace this type of opportunity.”
Bjork’s chance to lead such a program attracted him the most.
“This great ability, this great foundation that’s already there, all the resources that are in place and [being] the only SEC program in the state of Texas,” Bjork said. “There’s a ton of power in that. And we’re just now able know to kind of see that in five years or seven years of being in the SEC. That’s only going to get better.”
Bjork will attend the Southeastern Conference spring meetings that start Tuesday in Destin, Florida, though A&M interim AD R.C. Slocum is in charge until July 8 when Bjork starts work.
“We have the resources,” Bjork said. “We have the perspective, we have the commitment. My job early will be to learn and to listen and to build relationships. We’re nothing without relationships. So people talk about fundraising skills and all these kind of things, well the reason why you have good fundraisers is because you have relationships. You’re able to cast vision, and then you’re able to get people to really capitalize on their passion, whatever that is.”
Bjork said he’ll try to have that vision and then set a vision of success in excellence across the board.
“Early on, it’s going to be learn and listen and figure out if there are barriers, let’s knock them down,” Bjork said. “If there’s not, let’s capitalize on what’s there and just have a positive attitude and work as hard as possible.”
Bjork plans on meeting with every head coach and asking them if there are any barriers, what are they?
Bjork takes over a department that has 10 head coaches who have been at A&M for at least 13 seasons.
“To me, I believe if you have continuity, and it’s great continuity, then let’s keep that going,” Bjork said. “Now are you constantly learning and adapting? Of course you are. Take a coach like [women’s basketball coach] Gary Blair who has won a national championship and knows how to do it at a high level. Let’s sit down with Gary and say, ‘Gary what do we need to do to grow on what’s there, the foundation that’s there?’”
Bjork replaces Scott Woodward who after three years at A&M left for LSU. Woodward’s exit was quick and so was the Bjork’s hiring, which was announced Thursday evening.
“It definitely happened fast,” Bjork said. “I was told a few weeks ago that I was on their list, expect a phone call. I didn’t really get that phone call until a few days to set up a meeting last week with President [Michael K.] Young, then Thursday, at about 8:40 [p.m.], the news broke. President Young called me early afternoon, I guess it was after that Ole Miss-Texas A&M baseball game [a 1-0 Ole Miss victory at the SEC tournament]. I’m glad that didn’t cost me this opportunity. But he called me early afternoon on Thursday and talked about offering me the job. We went over everything, got everything done on Thursday. Obviously, the news broke. It was official about 10 o’clock Thursday night. It was a fast process once it got started.”