COLUMN: Bjork’s departure was going to happen

President Gary Ransdell speaks about WKU athletic director Ross Bjork’s move to the same position at Ole Miss on Wednesday in Diddle Arena.

Brad Stephens

WKU wasn’t going to hold on to Ross Bjork forever.

Bjork is an ambitious guy, an up-and-comer, a one-percenter.

He’s built a career on moving up the ladder when opportunity knocks, going from Missouri to Miami (Fla.), to UCLA, taking higher and higher jobs at each stop.

WKU gave him the chance to become an Athletics Director.

But a guy with Bjork’s ambition wasn’t going to stick around a Sun Belt Conference school for too long.

When a Southeastern Conference school like the University of Mississippi came calling, he was going to listen.

So when reports came out Tuesday that the 39-year old AD had accepted the same position at Ole Miss, it didn’t come as a total shock.

Ole Miss gives Bjork a chance to oversee an athletic department with much deeper pockets than those present at WKU.

It gives Bjork, a football guy, a seat at the table in the college football’s best conference.

And it will obviously give him a nice pay raise.

WKU coaches, players, administrators and fans have a right to be disappointed.

They’ve seen their program, which they dream of being on par with any other in the country, used as a stepping stone once again.

On the heels of the men’s basketball team’s improbable run to the NCAA Tournament, the timing was certainly a little awkward.

But no matter how he left, he’s gone and WKU has to move on.

The school can feel good knowing that some of its most prominent sports are in better shape now than when he took the job in March of 2010.

Football is on the upswing, and Bjork helped ensure it would continue that way by pushing for head coach Willie Taggart to receive a big pay raise.

The same positive energy is being felt in the men’s basketball program, especially in the wake of Bjork naming Ray Harper the team’s full-time head coach.

And though he left just days before Michelle Clark-Heard was named women’s basketball head coach, her hiring was made possible by Bjork’s firing of embattled coach Mary Taylor Cowles.

There were bumps along the way, like the Ken McDonald “Team Reset” situation, the departure of popular baseball coach Chris Finwood and criticism over the handling of football defensive coordinator Lance Guidry’s DWI arrest.

But looking from a broad scope, the state of WKU athletics isn’t all that bad.

It would’ve been interesting to see what Bjork could’ve accomplished had he stuck out the final two years of his contract, or stayed beyond that.

Could he have been the first WKU AD to send a team to a Football Bowl Subdivision bowl game?

Could he have seen his hires like Harper and baseball head coach Matt Myers win more Sun Belt titles?

Could he have been the AD responsible for returning the women’s basketball team to its state as a nationally recognized program?

We’ll never know the answers to these questions because Bjork didn’t stay long enough to see what happened.

Now it’s time for WKU president Gary Ransdell and Co. to go through the same process they went through just two years ago and find a new AD.

They may look internally and promote someone on from the athletics staff, likely interim AD Todd Stewart.

They may look for a current sitting AD at a smaller school that would see WKU as a destination job, rather than a stepping stone.

Or they may look for another young up-and-comer, the next Bjork.

If that’s the case, then they’ll cross their fingers and hope they can keep him around.