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Sources: Ohio State targeting Ross Bjork for athletic director

Ohio State is targeting Texas A&M athletic director Ross Bjork to become the school's next athletic director, sources told ESPN.

The hiring process is in the final stages, per the sources, with a conclusion expected in the coming days. Sources told ESPN in recent days that officials had reached out to other finalists and told them they were no longer in the running.

Bjork's expected hiring brings a paradigm shift for Ohio State athletics in the wake of the retirement of longtime athletic director Gene Smith, signaling a change in direction under new president Ted Carter, who began his tenure in recent weeks.

For years, the parlor game at athletic director conventions had been: Which one of Smith's successful Ohio State proteges would replace him at Ohio State? There were always plenty of potential candidates who had worked under Smith, including Washington State's Pat Chun, Pitt's Heather Lyke, Utah State's Diana Sabau and UCLA's Martin Jarmond.

Carter's targeting of Bjork indicates a preference for a fresh start over institutional knowledge.

Bjork would arrive having just fired Texas A&M football coach Jimbo Fisher, which came at the cost of the highest buyout in the history of the sport. Texas A&M owes Fisher more than $76 million of the fully guaranteed deal. Bjork did not hire Fisher but was athletic director when the contract extension that led to the buyout was issued.

In the wake of Fisher's firing, Bjork executed an unartful coaching search that ended with the hiring of Mike Elko. It included a public courtship of Kentucky's Mark Stoops that backfired, as Stoops ultimately ended up staying at Kentucky. Texas A&M is not expected to make a push to keep Bjork.

Bjork brings more than a decade of SEC experience. He worked at Ole Miss as the athletic director from 2012 to 2019 before being hired at Texas A&M. Prior to Ole Miss, he was the athletic director at Western Kentucky and before that, an associate or assistant AD at schools including UCLA, Miami and Missouri.

Ohio State looms as one of the top jobs in college athletics. Smith is set to retire in July after 18 seasons, during which he emerged as one of the sport's most respected voices. Eight times during Smith's tenure, Ohio State finished No. 1 in the Big Ten in the Director's Cup standings.

Ohio State, which has 36 sports, has won 32 team and 117 individual national championships during Smith's tenure.