After the university submitted its appeal of the NCAA Committee on Infractions decision, The Daily Mississippian spoke with Vice Chancellor for Intercollegiate Athletics Ross Bjork about the appeal, recruiting and more. Read the Q&A below:
The Daily Mississippian: Why is it important for you and Chancellor Vitter to continue fighting the NCAA decision/penalties?
Vice Chancellor Ross Bjork: We believe that all universities should be treated in a fair, equitable, and consistent manner during any NCAA investigation and infractions case. After discovering that violations occurred within our athletics program, we took strong action, held ourselves accountable by self-imposing strong penalties and separating ourselves from individuals who were involved in violations. When violations were alleged that did not have evidence to substantiate a finding, we voiced our disagreement and don’t believe those allegations should have been part of our case. In addition, the imposition of a second year post-season ban in football has severe financial penalties since we lose revenue through the SEC and this penalty punishes young men in our program who had nothing to do with the violations. We believe the penalties are excessive and it is our duty to stand up for our athletics program when we feel it is the right thing to do.
DM: How confident is the Athletics Department feeling that the NCAA will accept the appeals?
RB: From the beginning of this entire case, we have had a great team working for the university. We believe we have relevant points that demonstrate we have a strong case and our appeal document reflects this compelling position.
DM: Despite all of the recent NCAA news, Ole Miss recently had a very successful signing day. Do you think the NCAA decision will affect recruiting for next year’s team at all?
RB: One of the positive aspects of the NCAA decision is now our program has clarity. We know what the worst case scenario is for our football program, and we can all start the rejuvenation process of working together to rebuild our program into a championship contender. Therefore, our coaches have done a great job on the recruiting trail of building relationships with prospects, families and coaches who see Ole Miss as a great place for them to earn their degree and play football at the highest level. Having a clear picture of where our program stands has really helped recruiting, and it will only get better from here.
DM: Is there anything else you think is important for the community to know about this?
RB: Ole Miss is a great university, and Oxford is an amazing town to live in. We have a great foundation that is in place that will allow us to overcome these challenges and continue to be an asset for the entire university community. Athletics is not the most important aspect of the university, but we are the most visible. Therefore, it is our obligation to do things the right way and add value to the entire university. We are committed to moving forward and building our program so everyone in the Ole Miss family can be proud.