Ole Miss Athletics Director Ross Bjork announced on Monday that 33 Ole Miss victories, ranging from 2010-2016 but excluding the 2015 season, would be vacated from the record books. However, now that the NCAA saga appears to finally be in the past, Ole Miss Athletics is ready to move forward.
Bjork made the announcement that the wins would be vacated at the Cleveland, Mississippi, town hall meeting in front of a small crowd. There, he referred to the vacated wins as “just a piece of paper,” a sentiment he believes many of the Rebel faithful share.
“It was an answer to a question,” Bjork said. “I said it’s basically on a piece of paper. You were still there. I still have the goalpost from the Alabama game in my office; that’s not going away.”
When asked to elaborate further, Bjork went on to explain that striking the wins is more of an administrative penalty than anything else.
“The scores happened. The emotions happened. The players walked off the field celebrating,” Bjork said. “So, we have to change our records, our media guides. We can’t have any public display of any victories, so that’s what I really meant by that.”
The letter, dated Dec. 7, 2018, was just released this past Monday. Once Ole Miss’s appeal was finalized, the university had until Dec. 15 to determine the participation, or lack thereof, of ineligible student athletes from each game in order to decide which victories needed to be vacated.
“We were going to release it at some point this spring, but at the town hall meeting on Monday night, somebody asked me about it and said, ‘What games have to be vacated?’ So I went down the list,” Bjork said. “We had a reporter who was there in the room covering the event; he reported on it Monday night. So, we got back on Monday night and put the letter that we sent to the NCAA on the website.”
The letter came just days after National Signing Day. According to Bjork, it was important to get through the recruiting cycle before the letter was released.
“We wanted to get through recruiting, it’s very, very important for our football program,” Bjork said. “We’ve had enough distractions.”
Often the athletics department will send out a notice to students and alumni on the day of big announcements such as this, however, that procedure was not taken in this instance.
“We were just gonna post it on the website,” Bjork said.
Bjork’s announcement came at the first of seven town hall meetings scheduled across the state for the month of February, with stops in Jackson, Oxford, Tupelo and Gulfport as well as a DeSoto County town hall to be held in Memphis. The meetings provide a chance for fans to have their questions about Ole Miss Athletics answered.
“We announced these town hall meetings a week and a half after the football season,” Bjork said. “We said, ‘Let’s do it in February, right before the SEC Tournament and March Madness. Let’s get out there in front of the people to just listen and answer questions.’ The goals were very simple: listen and answer questions. And hopefully, people walk away with a better sense of, ‘Okay, I know where we’re heading.’”
Bjork’s reputation has seemingly taken a hit in the eyes of the Ole Miss faithful following the conclusion of the NCAA case. However, Bjork appears to be fully committed to Ole Miss’s forward movement.
“I really can’t speak on what people think about me. I can only do my job and control what I can control,” Bjork said. “Everything that I do and every decision that I make is in the best interest of the university.”
Moving forward, Ole Miss will look to repair the trust torn by the long investigation.
“Other than probation, which ends on Dec. 1, 2020, there’s really nothing else from a penalty standpoint. We’re moving forward full speed ahead,” Bjork said. “I sense, really, a renewed optimism among our fans, our coaching staff and our student-athletes. Let’s go to work. Let’s maximize the potential of Ole Miss.”