CLEVELAND | The intimate setting of Sanders Soundstage at the GRAMMY Museum in Cleveland, Mississippi, does not offer much protection for the show performer.
The neighborhoods are in a theater of 130 seats and when Ole Miss Athletics Director Ross Bjork first entered the hall for the first of the seven municipal meetings in Mississippi and Memphis, he approved the area and asked for the lights to be as bright as possible.
If the goal is to be visible to the Ole Miss community, you can go all the way to it.
Bjork asked questions for the majority of the 90-minute event on Monday, as a crowd of about 50 fans alternated between a mix of emotions involving irritation, disappointment, gratitude, and even hope. In order not to be confused with a rally or social event, there was no food or drink. It was a business meeting.
"The plan is that everything has to be dispelled and asked for it," Bjork said as he grabbed his Ford Explorer coat on his arrival at the museum. "I can not guarantee that they like my answers, but I will be honest and will try to explain what happened and why."
The fanbase's collective tissue, which still favored for years of poor publicity and prolonged gunshots, was obvious, even with the small sample size in the Mississippi delta. NCAA's questions cover half of the topics posed to Bjork, and excerpts from the findings come from the answers. This was part of the session, part of the information and a potentially important step on the road to closure.
[Related: Ole Miss vacates 33 wins over six seasons]
Bjork admitted that Ole Miss had to publish all the information about the charges in January 2016, putting an end to the months of speculation and raising the transparency he is trying to correct with these outings. He was working on the elbow that when the NCAA pressed for leakage, the leak stopped, but then they started again.
The biggest interruption remains the public against the private nature of the fight with Ole Miss during the investigation. Bjork directed the attendees to the NCAA deadlines, which were also provided with posters, which also contained financial information, milestones and a note recording area. In December 2014, Ole Miss met with representatives of the NCAA in Indianapolis and won an important decision to reduce the charges. The next spring, NCAA told Ole Miss that the case was nearing completion. This summer, Lemurie Tonsil and Lindsay Miller had quarrels and collapsed.
And while the information – on each of the topics – was the reason for the meeting, the tone of the crowd shifted because of intent and experience. No one moderated the questions or changed focus. The hands rose, the microphones passed, asked questions, and Bjork did his best to answer. The majority of the attendees paused to shake their hand afterwards, and the topic was grateful for coming and being available. The bare-bone operation provided some catharsis for lack of smoke and mirrors.
During the one-hour 45-minute trip from Oxford, Bjork crossed the expected questions for the last time. But instead of studying his coach, he checked for additional information that could be provided, practicing to organize the details he wanted to include when the time came.
At least for most of the crowd in Cleveland it was time to continue. After 45 minutes of questions about the involvement of NCAA and MSU, there was a remarkable transition to basketball, college, baseball and football coordinator inquiries. As if the room was clear of all the raw emotion – though some answers ended in a stalemate – and the fans were free to look forward.
"Many times you do not get the chance to talk about questions and judge where you are, but it was something that happened tonight," Bjork said. "We have to do that many times and try to reach people."
During the meeting, Bjork broke the news of the 33 freed soccer wins for six seasons. There were several sound sighs when he pushed the seasons of total elimination and then a few hype and shouts, pointing out that the 2015 season, including the Sugar Bowl trophy, was spared. Winning wins have always been the final NCAA wound when things are over. Ole Miss insisted on more leniency, but the rule does not make sense and is designed to maximally harm a silent punishment. Bjork called it a "broken system".
Ole Miss also did not deviate from the financial discussions. In 2017, there was a "rainy day" fund of $ 27.7 million (compared to $ 5.9 million in 2012), but as Ole Miss lost a total of $ 16 million over the past two seasons of the income this reserve has fallen to $ 8.1 million to maintain full budget capacity. In one of the only moments of night-time action, Bjork called on fans to take action by asking for any support they could provide as he hoped he would eventually start ascending.
Among all the concerns, there were glimpses of what Ole Miss could bring back to the national brand that was recently in 2015. the success of basketball under the first annual coach Kermit Davis and the expected national success of baseball when it begins in a few days.
Regardless of the feelings of how and what happened over the past five or five years, it has been officially done. Money and profits are undressed and all payments made. If Ole Miss remains out of the NCAA's problems until 2022-2023, it will receive $ 8 million of lost revenue.
Winning, normality and competence around are the only ways to get back to the place where Ole Miss was before the NCAA hunters. City halls and conversations are not the final answers, but Monday night in Cleveland showed that they could just be a step in that direction. Instead of feeling the fans of exclusion from the Ole Miss administration for some time, it was easy to see a step towards reunification.
There are six other city hall stops, and then 11 retreat areas in the area to move from the past to the future. Oxygen was not back in the program, but for most of the crowd in Cleveland on Monday evening he had marked his first full breath for a while.