- Ross Bjork, Vice Chancellor for Intercollegiate Athletics
Ross Bjork was announced on March 21, 2012 as the seventh full-time Director of Athletics at Ole Miss and at age 43, is the youngest AD among power five conference institutions. In just three years, Bjork’s tenure with the Rebels has produced energetic hires, structural progress, team success and a new spirit surrounding Ole Miss Athletics.
Bjork set the tone early by hiring one of the country’s top rising coaches in Matt Insell (women’s basketball) and has since brought Steven McRoberts (volleyball), Mike Smith (softball), Chris Malloy (men’s golf), Kory Henkes (women’s golf) and Connie Price-Smith (track & field/XC) on board, while promoting Toby Hansson, one of college tennis’ best assistant coaches, to head men’s coach. He also appointed three executive level administrators for external relations, academic support and facilities/game operations.
The external relations post was a new umbrella position at the center of Bjork’s reorganization of that area of Ole Miss Athletics, including the Foundation, ticket operations, marketing and communications and the relationship with Ole Miss Sports Properties. Progress has continued in that division with the rebranding of the Ole Miss Athletics Foundation and a partnership with new multi-media rightsholder, IMG Properties.
Bjork also created the unit for Health and Sports Performance, which combined sports medicine, strength and conditioning, nutrition and counseling services and added a local orthopedic sports medicine component that provides primary sports medicine care for all student-athletes.
Bjork’s vision in facilities resulted in a development plan for the Manning Center, which was renamed to honor Olivia and Archie Manning. The $12.5 million renovation included the Grill at 1810 (a full service dining facility), the Williams-Reed Football Foyer, Burns team meeting room, VanDevender Family locker room, weight room, player lounge and visuals throughout the complex.
Ole Miss has enjoyed unprecedented support under Bjork. The 2015 campaign marks the third straight to sell out of football season tickets, while season attendance records have been shattered each of the last two seasons. Baseball finished second in the nation in attendance in 2015, extending a streak of 10 straight seasons in the top five. The athletics budget has risen from $62 to $96 million, and donations received for 2014-15 reached a record high of $35 million. As of June 2015, the Forward Together capital campaign has risen from $62 to $137 million in cash and pledges toward its goal of $150 million. Campaign plans include the Pavilion at Ole Miss to open during the 2015-16 season, a north end zone expansion and suite renovations at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, renovation of the Gillom Center, FedEx Academic Support Center and Starnes Athletic Training Center, as well as other future projects.
Bjork’s leadership has also translated to immediate success in the competitive arena. In 2014-15, Ole Miss was one of only two schools in the nation to make a “New Year’s Six” bowl and the NCAA Tournament in men’s basketball and baseball. The football team’s bowl berth marked their third in Hugh Freeze’s first three seasons, which was preceded by a two-year postseason drought. The staff also assembled a top-five recruiting class in 2013, the highest ranked in school history.
Other highlights include the first College World Series appearance in 42 years, as the baseball team reached the final four in Omaha and captured the SEC Western Division title in 2014. After a 10-year absence, men’s basketball has advanced in the NCAA Tournament two of the last three seasons, including 2013 when it claimed the SEC Tournament Championship. Baseball and men’s hoops are among nine Rebel programs to earn postseason berths under Bjork’s watch, along with soccer, men’s tennis, women’s tennis, men’s golf, women’s golf, men’s track and women’s track.
Bjork’s reign has also featured a pair of national championships, as Sam Kendricks took home the pole vault title at both the 2013 and 2014 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships. The 2013 SEC West champion men’s tennis team also vied for a national title, as the doubles team of Nic Scholtz and Jonas Lutjen advanced to the final four. Men’s outdoor track and field registered a program-best eighth-place finish at the 2013 NCAA Championships, while men’s tennis finished top-10 in the national polls that season.
Off the field, Bjork’s emphasis on academics resulted in a record 2.90 GPA among the student-athlete population in 2014-15, and he has established a goal of 3.0 moving forward. In the community, student-athletes participated in more than 30 service projects, and even bigger plans are on the horizon. Throughout his career, Bjork has placed a great importance on diversity, and in 2013, the athletics department partnered with the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation to establish a Racial Reconciliation Week which took place during the 2013 football season.
Bjork’s first full week at the post in 2012 was spent on the inaugural Rebel Road Trip, a six-day, 16-stop tour of the region that served to unite the Rebel fanbase. In the first three years of the tour, Bjork and Co., visited approximately 12,000 fans. He carried the momentum from the first RRT into the launch of a major sales campaign for football season tickets, which included television and radio advertising, billboards, internet marketing and a new outbound telemarketing call center.
Bjork arrived in Oxford after a stint as Director of Athletics at Western Kentucky University, where he quickly established an atmosphere of success. After Bjork made a midseason coaching change, the Hilltopper men’s basketball team went on to capture the 2012 Sun Belt Conference Tournament title and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Women’s Volleyball won the conference regular season and tournament in 2011 and reached the NCAA tournament each of his last two years, while men’s and women’s cross country each won conference team titles in 2011. WKU’s football program posted the greatest one-season improvement in conference wins in the history of the Sun Belt in posting a 7-1 league mark and second-place conference finish. WKU football also signed the conference’s top recruiting class each of his last two seasons.
During his tenure, each of WKU’s men’s and women’s athletic teams exceeded the NCAA required 925 Academic Progress Report Rate (APR), and WKU had more individuals honored for their academic achievements by the Sun Belt Conference than any other institution in 2011-12. For the first time in program history, the overall cumulative average GPA was over 3.0 for all 391 student-athletes and 228 maintained a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher. Ten of the university’s 15 athletic programs posted a cumulative team GPA of 3.0 or better.
The youngest athletics director of the 120 NCAA FBS programs when hired at WKU, Bjork has an extensive career in intercollegiate athletics with two decades of experience as an administrator and student-athlete, having worked on the senior staffs at UCLA, the University of Miami and the University of Missouri. He began his administrative career at WKU as an Assistant Development Coordinator in 1996-97.
Bjork is a native of Dodge City, Kan., and received his bachelor’s degree in recreation administration from Emporia State University in 1995 where he was a two-year starter at fullback. He earned a master’s degree in athletic administration from Western Illinois University in December 1996. Bjork has quickly established a leadership role in the SEC by being appointed as Chair of the awards committee and selected to the NCAA basketball issues committee and the NCAA recruiting cabinet.
Bjork and his wife, Sonya, have two boys: Payton (9) and Paxton (5).
The Bjork File
Hometown: Dodge City, Kan.
High School: Dodge City Senior High School
College: Emporia State University (B.S., Recreation Administration, 1995); Western Illinois University (M.S., Athletic Administration, 1996)
Children: Sons, Payton Ross (9) and Paxton Ross (5)
Bjork’s Career Timeline
2012-Present: Ole Miss, Director of Athletics
2010-12: Western Kentucky, Director of Intercollegiate Athletics
2005-10: UCLA, Senior Associate Athletic Director for External Relations
2003-05: University of Miami, Associate Athletic Director for External Operations
2001-03: University of Missouri, Assistant Athletic Director for Development
1997-2001: University of Missouri, Athletic Development Officer
1996-97: WKU, Assistant Development Coordinator
1995-96: Western Illinois University, Campus Recreation Grad. Asst./Ath. Dept. Volunteer
1995: University of Tulsa, Marketing Intern
1994: Albuquerque Dukes, Front Office Intern
- Keith Carter, Sr. Associate A.D. for Development/ Executive Director
Former Ole Miss Basketball All-American Keith Carter rejoined Rebel Athletics in September 2009 with the Ole Miss Athletics Foundation as a major gifts officer. In June 2012, he assumed the role of executive director of the foundation with the title of associate athletics director for development, and oversees all aspects of philanthropic giving to Ole Miss Athletics. Carter’s title has since been elevated to senior associate athletics director.
In Carter’s two years as executive director, the Ole Miss Athletics Foundation experienced unprecedented support. The $26.1 million raised in 2013 and the $27.4 million raised in 2014 both set all-time highs for cash giving. Carter played a vital role in the inception and growth of the Forward Together campaign, the most aggressive and comprehensive initiative in the history of Ole Miss Athletics. Under Carter’s leadership, the campaign reached the $75 million mark in total gifts in August 2012, halfway to its goal in just one year. Since then, the campaign has reached the $110 million mark on the way to the $150 million goal. Among those gifts is an anonymous donation of $3.7 million, which is the largest gift in the history of the Ole Miss Athletics Department by a single individual or organization. Carter is also responsible for several other seven-figure gifts including the re-naming of the basketball practice facility to the Tuohy Basketball Center. Carter has also worked with executive level staff to build the vision for facility growth through the Forward Together campaign. These plans include a new basketball arena slated to open in 2015-16 and a football stadium renovation and addition that will start as funding is available.
Carter joined the Ole Miss Athletics Foundation after spending the previous year with the UM Foundation, where he worked in donor relations and meeting the financial needs of the School of Business.
Carter continues to serve with the Ole Miss Radio Network as the color analyst for Rebel hoops games alongside play-by-play announcer David Kellum. Carter joined the Ole Miss Radio Network prior to the 2008-09 season.
A four-year starter at Ole Miss, Carter helped the Rebels to a pair of Southeastern Conference Western Division titles in 1997 and 1998 and earned All-America honors after his senior season in 1999. The four-year starter received All-SEC first and second team honors in 1998 and 1999. He also won a gold medal as a member of the U.S. national team at the 1998 Goodwill Games. Carter played professional basketball in Italy from 2001 until 2008.
A native of Perryville, Arkansas, Carter lives in Oxford with his wife, Jill, and three children – Drew (10), Callie (8) and Hayes (1).
Annual Giving Staff
- Dan O'Dowd, Associate A.D. for Development
Dan O’Dowd joined the Ole Miss Athletics Foundation staff in August 2012 with responsibilities including oversight of the annual giving staff and operations.
A native of Columbia, South Carolina, O’Dowd came to Oxford from the University of Louisiana at Monroe, where he spent the previous three years as associate athletic director for development. He was responsible for the development and execution of various revenue streams including annual giving, major gifts, corporate sponsorships and ticketing. He also coordinated the athletic department’s external operations and served as a member of the university’s development team.
Before joining ULM, O’Dowd served eight years at Georgia Southern University. As the director of development, his responsibilities included the GSU Athletic Foundation’s annual giving campaigns and football lettermen’s organization. Prior to Georgia Southern, O’Dowd served nearly three years as director of development for Marshall University’s Big Green Scholarship Foundation and one year as director of marketing and promotions at Troy State University.
A graduate of Georgia Southern University, O’Dowd holds a master’s degree in sport management from Western Illinois University and earned his MBA from Georgia Southern University. O’Dowd and his wife, Angela, have two sons, Davis and Brendan.
- Stu Sutton, Associate Director of Development
Stuart Sutton joined the Ole Miss Athletic Foundation in March of 2014 and was elevated to his current position in July of 2016. Stu is responsible for assisting with fundraising efforts of annual giving, car dealer program, student program, priority seating and the current Forward Together capital campaign.
Prior to Ole Miss, Sutton worked for the Crimson Tide Foundation within the University of Alabama Athletic Department as a graduate student. His responsibilities included assisting with the Sewell Thomas baseball renovation, annual fund, stewardship, external events and lettermen communication. In addition, Sutton has worked for the University of Illinois Football program and Athletic Department as a student assistant. His internship experience includes Vanderbilt University Marketing Department, University of Alabama’s Marketing/Sales Department and UA Ticket Office along with the Chicago Bears Football Club.
A native of Bourbonnais, IL, Sutton earned his Master’s degree in Sports Management from the University of Alabama in May 2014. Sutton earned his Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He also received his Private Pilot License from Southern Illinois University and was a member of the Varsity baseball team at Illinois State University from 2008-09. Sutton is married to the former Jenna Sunderland of Bloomington, IL.
- Zach Barnhart, Associate Director of Development
Zach Barnhart joined the Ole Miss Athletics Foundation in November of 2014 as an Assistant Director of Development and was elevated to his current position as Associate Director of Development in January of 2017. Barnhart is responsible for assisting with fundraising efforts of annual giving and priority seating.
Prior to Ole Miss, Barnhart worked as a Development Associate for the Terrapin Club Scholarship Fund with the University of Maryland Athletic Department. He was responsible for overseeing the young alumni program and assisting with the volunteer program among other annual giving duties.
A native of Greencastle, PA, Barnhart earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Sports Management from George Mason University with minors in Business and Sport Communication. While attending George Mason University, Barnhart completed internships with the Washington Redskins and the George Mason Recreation Department.
- Anne Threlkeld, Associate Director of Development
Anne Threlkeld joined the Ole Miss Athletics Foundation in January of 2015 as Assistant Director of Development for Stewardship and Donor Relations and was elevated to her current position as Associate Director of Development in January of 2017. Anne’s responsibilities are assisting in the fundraising efforts of annual giving and priority seating.
Anne comes to Ole Miss after working in the Alexander-Tharpe Fund in the Georgia Tech Athletics Association, first as an intern, then as a Development Assistant. While working at Georgia Tech, she earned her Master’s in Kinesiology- Sport Management from the University of Georgia.
Anne was a member of the Rebel track and cross country teams from 2009-2013, was a 4-year letterwinner, and is a school record holder in the DMR. Anne graduated cum laude from the University of Mississippi in the Spring of 2013 with bachelor’s degree in psychology.
Anne grew up in Oxford, MS and is a lifelong Rebel fan. Her parents are both professors at Ole Miss.
- JJ Eftink, Assistant Director of DevelopmentEMAIL JJ
JJ Eftink joined the Ole Miss Athletics Foundation in August of 2015 as Development Assistant and was elevated to his current role in August of 2016. JJ’s responsibilities include assisting in the fundraising efforts of annual giving and priority seating for football, basketball, and baseball.
Prior to joining the Ole Miss Athletics Foundation JJ worked with the Ole Miss Basketball program as a student manager. During his time with the program JJ was an integral part of 2013 SEC Championship and 2 NCAA appearances in 2013 and 2015.
JJ graduated with a degree in Park and Recreation Management and with a minor in Therapeutic Recreation from Ole Miss in 2013. He is a native of Oxford, MS.
- Brady Bramlett, External Relations AssistantEMAIL BRADY
Brady Bramlett joined the Ole Miss Athletics Foundation in August of 2016 as External Relations Assistant. Brady’s responsibilities are assisting in all aspects of the Foundation including annual fund, major gifts, special projects, game day functions, and special events.
Brady also serves as the current Chair of the NCAA Division I National Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, as well as a member of the NCAA Division I Board of Directors. Along with that, he represents the SEC as a voting member within the Autonomy, Power 5 Conferences.
Brady was a pitcher for the Rebel baseball team from 2013-2016, was a 3-year letterwinner, drafted by the Oakland Athletic’s in 2015, then drafted again by the Boston Red Sox in 2016, and is one of few Rebel pitchers to have 20 career wins on the mound. Brady graduated from the University of Mississippi in the spring of 2016 with a bachelor’s degree in biology, and is now pursuing his master’s in integrated marketing communications. Brady grew up in Bartlett, TN a Rebel fan. He is the son of Bobby and Amy Bramlett, and brother of Bryson Bramlett.
Major Giving Staff
- Matt Mossberg, Associate A.D. for Development
Matt Mossberg re-joined the Ole Miss athletics foundation staff in July of 2015. After spending three years at the University at Buffalo, including one as Assistant AD for Development/Major Gifts, Mossberg returned to his alma mater as the Associate AD for Development overseeing Major Gifts.
While at UB, Mossberg served as Director of Development for Major Gifts before being promoted to Assistant AD for Development/Gifts in 2014. In that role, Mossberg directed UB’s Major Gifts team and served as a member of the athletic department’s senior staff.
A native of Costa Mesa, California, Mossberg spent over a decade in various rolls at Ole Miss prior to making the move to Buffalo. He started as a student-athlete, playing baseball for the Rebels from 2000-03 before returning as the Director of Baseball Operations in 2006. After serving as an administrator and coach for five seasons, Mossberg made the transition to Major Gifts Officer for Ole Miss Athletics Foundation where he brought in several major gifts as part of the Forward Together campaign.
During his time on the diamond as an assistant coach, Mossberg was an integral part of the success of the Rebels which garnered several NCAA berths resulting in two regionals, two super regionals and a 2009 SEC Championship.
A four-year letter winner for the Rebels, Mossberg also helped lead the Rebels to two postseason appearances in the 2001 NCAA Regional at Tulane and the 2003 NCAA Regional at Rice. The center fielder was known for his defense, but also hit .306 for his career with 24 RBI and notched 24 steals in his career.
After earning his B.S. degree in Exercise Science from Ole Miss in 2003, Mossberg earned his M.A. in Sports Management from the University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa in 2008.
Mossberg is married to the former Cheryl Wilson of Birmingham, Alabama, who played volleyball for Ole Miss from 2000-02. The couple have three sons: Jack (10), Pete (7) and Roy (3).
- Michael Paulus, Assistant A.D. for Development
Michael Paulus joined the Ole Miss Athletics Foundation in June of 2015 as Director of Development for Major Gifts and was elevated to his current role as Assistant A.D. for Development/Major Gifts in March of 2017. In his role, Michael is responsible for raising major gifts for the Forward Together campaign, a $200 million fundraising initiative that includes a new basketball arena, renovated and expanded football stadium, and facility improvements for all 18 sports at Ole Miss.
Prior to Ole Miss, Paulus served as Senior Director of Athletic Development at Mount St. Mary’s University and oversaw all fundraising operations for Mount athletics from 2013-2015. At Mount St. Mary’s, Paulus helped lead the Mount Club to record levels of support, including a 43 percent increase in donors and a 79 percent growth in cash donations. He also developed and led fundraising campaigns to successfully renovate the weight room, construct a hitting facility, and add a video board in Knott Arena.
Michael began his career at Virginia Commonwealth University as a graduate assistant in athletic development before being hired as Director of the Ram Athletic Fund. At VCU from 2012-2013, he managed the day-to-day operations of annual giving, including priority seating, member benefits, and special event fundraisers.
A native of Syracuse, N.Y., Paulus played quarterback at the University of North Carolina and College of William & Mary. He earned a Masters of Education from VCU, his M.B.A. from Mount St. Mary’s, and is pursuing a Ph.D. in Higher Education at Ole Miss.
- Matt McLaughlin, Director of DevelopmentEMAIL MATT
Matt McLaughlin joined the Ole Miss Athletics Foundation in October of 2012 and was elevated to his current position in January of 2017. Matt’s responsibilities will be advancing fundraising efforts through philanthropic major gifts to the Vaught Society. The Vaught Society is a key component in support of the Forward Together Campaign, which is a $200 million facilities initiative for Ole Miss Athletics.
Before moving into his current role as Associate Director of Development for Major Gifts, Matt was an Assistant Director of Development for Annual Giving. Matt’s responsibilities were to assist in fundraising efforts for Football, Basketball, and Baseball, which saw three consecutive record breaking years in membership and annual contributions.
Matt graduated from Jacksonville State University in Jacksonville, AL with a Bachelor of Science degree in Political Science and minor in Marketing. He was also a four-year letterman for the Gamecock Baseball Team as an infielder and designated hitter. The Gamecocks won two Ohio Valley Conference titles during McLaughlin’s four year tenure from 2008 to 2011.
A native of Tampa, FL, Matt lives in Oxford with his wife, Brittney, and their daughter, Finley.
- Kathryn Lance, Assistant Director of DevelopmentEMAIL KATHRYN
Kathryn joined the Ole Miss Athletics Foundation in April 2013 as assistant director of development; stewardship and prospect management. Lance is responsible for planning and coordinating all Vaught-Society, major donor, and special events for the foundation.
Prior to joining the Ole Miss Athletics Foundation, Lance worked as the director of athletics hospitality in Ole Miss Athletics, for Colonnade Group of Birmingham, Alabama. During her three years with Colonnade, she managed all premium seating areas for Vaught-Hemingway and Oxford-University stadiums.
A native of Gainesville, Georgia, Kathryn earned her bachelor of science at the University of North Georgia in Dahlonega, Georgia. While attending UNG, Kathryn completed an internship at the Piedmont Room and Garden Tent in Atlanta, where she assisted the event coordinator with all corporate and private events.
Kathryn is married to Brady Lance, a native of Ackerman, Mississippi, and a graduate of Ole Miss. The two reside in Oxford, Mississippi, with their daughter, Norah, and two dogs, Tucker and Hank.
- Alex Rankin, Assistant Director of Development
Alex joined the Ole Miss Athletics Foundation in April 2017 as Assistant Director of Development. Alex’s responsibilities include the development of philanthropic major gifts to the Vaught Society. Currently, the Vaught Society is helping to fund the $200 million Forward Together campaign which includes a new basketball arena, renovations to Vaught Hemingway Stadium, and improvements for facilities serving all 18 sports at Ole Miss.
Prior to Ole Miss, Alex served as a Development Associate for The Rams Club at the University of North Carolina. His primary role was to assist the Major Gift team in raising funds for capital projects and the athletic scholarship endowment. During his time at UNC, The Rams Club announced its two most successful fundraising years in the foundation’s history.
Alex was born in Indianola, MS and lived in Oxford prior to moving to Hillsborough, NC. He earned a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Tulane University and a Masters of Sport Administration from the University of North Carolina.
- Kerry Cruse, Operations Coordinator
- Fowler Staines, Chief Financial Officer
Fowler Staines joined the Ole Miss Athletics Foundation in August of 2012 after previously working for McGladrey and Pullen, LLP (Washington, DC) and Kinney and Associates (Oxford, MS).
Fowler graduated from Ole Miss in 2007 with a Bachelor of Accountancy and received her Master of Accountancy from the University of North Carolina – Charlotte in 2008.
Fowler is a Certified Public Accountant, a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants as well as the Mississippi Society of Certified Public Accountants.
Fowler lives in Oxford with her husband, Billy, daughter, Graham, and son, Miles.
- Georgia Russell, AccountantEMAIL GEORGIA Georgia Russell joined the Ole Miss Athletics Foundation in May of 2017 as an accountant. Prior to joining the Ole Miss Athletics Foundation Georgia worked for Ham Langston & Brezina, LLP (Houston, TX) as a staff auditor. She also interned with the Ole Miss Business Administration office during the spring semester of 2017.
Georgia was a member of the Ole Miss women’s soccer team from 2012-2016. During Georgia’s time with the program she was an integral part of the Rebels success as they appeared in their first-ever NCAA Sweet 16 appearance.
Georgia graduated from Ole Miss in 2015 with a Bachelor of Accountancy, and is now pursuing her Master’s in Accountancy. Georgia grew up in Tupelo, MS and lives in Oxford as a huge Rebel Fan!
- Tammy Diggs, Donations Manager