Bobby Ross, the man the University of Maryland has designated to succeed Jerry Claiborne in hopes of filing Byrd Stadium while contending for the Atlantic Coast Conference football championship, was chosen primarily for his ability to recruit.
Ross, 44, most recently the offensive backfield coach with the Kansas City Chiefs, is expected to be named Maryland's head football coach Thursday. Ross served as an assistant coach under Claiborne for one season -- 1972 -- before taking the head coaching job at The Citadel, a military school. His five-year record there was 24-31, but he earned a reputation as a good recruiter.
"Bobby Ross made us a competitive Division I-A school largely by recruiting very well at a very tough school," said The Citadel's athletic director, Ed Teague, who hired Ross at the Charleston, S.C., school. "He's done a good job everywhere he's been."
The Chiefs' office said yesterday that Ross was en route to Maryland and would not be available for comment. Maryland Athletic Director Dick Dull, who said previously he and the new coach would meet with University Chancellor Robert L. Gluckstern yesterday for final approval, also was unavailable for comment.
"I think the University of Maryland, in hiring Bobby, has gotten an outstanding man," said Marv Levy, Kansas City's head coach. "Bobby was a member of my staff at William and Mary and he was an excellent recruiter when he was with me. He's a really good teacher, and has good rapport with the players."
Ross' appeal as a salesman helped him win the job over Dick Nolan, Houston Oiler assistant coach, who was the leading candidate until late last week. Nolan is a graduate of Maryland who had some success as a head coach with San Francisco and New Orleans.
But several influential people close to the football program were concerned about Nolan's ability to recruit.
"The Washington area was one of Bobby's primary recruiting responsibilities when he was with me at William and Mary," said Levy, who called Dull Several weeks ago to recommend Ross. "Bobby is from Richmond (and a graduate of Virginia Military Institute)," Levy said. "He knows the area very well."
When Claiborne left Maryland for Kentucky on Dec. 16, Dull said he wanted to hire someone who would not only win football games, but fill Byrd Stadium by filling the air with passes. "I am predisposed to hiring a proven person, who has a wide-open, passing philosophy," Dull said.
Ross primarily has coached running backs and special teams.
Levy credits Ross with developing Kansas City's rushing attack, which led the AFC and was second in the NFL behind Detroit. But the Chiefs were 14th -- dead last -- in AFC passing. At The Citadel, Ross used a veer offense, which is primarily a running formation, and the wide-tackle six defense he learned from Claiborne.
"I can't speak for Bobby and what type of offense he will use, assuming that he comes to Maryland, but I do know he has a broad knowledge of the whole game," Levy said.
In addition to being a good recruiter, Ross is said to be a teaching coach, as opposed to a philosophical or play-making coach. "He really helped develop young players like (Chief running backs) James Hadnot and Ted McKnight," a Kansas City spokesman said.
"He's not a disciplinarian for the sake of having discipline," Levy said. "But he does a lot of teaching and he communicates well with the players."