GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Years of NCAA investigation, followed by probation and now controversy over basketball players kneeling during the National Anthem, Ole Miss supporters have dealt with rocky times.
Tuesday, those supporters on the Coast had a chance to direct their questions and frustrations towards Athletic Director Ross Bjork in Gulfport.
“I will tell you the truth, and I will give you my perspective,” Bjork told a group of supporters gathered at the Lynn Meadows Discovery Center.
Watch the full 6-minute interview with Ross Bjork below:
In what he called an honest and open discussion, Bjork fielded questions for an hour and a half. The biggest frustration for Ole Miss supporters in attendance was the lengthy NCAA investigation into the football program, which resulted in a two year post-season ban and vacated wins going back to the 2010 season.
Bjork is using town hall meetings like this one around the state to build back fan trust.
“Yes, we’ve struggled the last couple of years, but we’ve shown we can win, and it’s our job to deliver a relevant product,” Bjork said.
A topic of conversation was also the eight basketball players who knelt during the National Anthem prior to last Saturday’s game in Oxford against Georgia. The players said taking a knee was in response to pro-Confederate groups marching on campus during the game.
Supporters at the town hall weighed in.
“I’m glad they reacted against it. I just don’t think that was the way to do it,” said Harry Hewes.
While fans have differing opinions, Bjork and Ole Miss basketball coach Kermit Davis stood behind the players.
“They made their statement. They didn’t like these people coming to our campus, and we didn’t like them,” Bjork said. “That took a lot of courage. I think we have to support that, and they’re ready to turn the page.”
The town hall in Gulfport was the sixth of seven scheduled meetings around the state and Memphis.