Bobby Ross succeeded Jerry Claiborne as Maryland's football coach yesterday, promising his Terrapin teams will use a professional-style offense of "50 percent passing and running" with an emphasis on multiple formations and deception.
Ross, at his formal introduction in College Park, addressed questions ranging from his coaching philosophy to recruiting. He signed a four-year contract that sources in the athletic department say is worth approximately $50,000 a year, but television and radio packages could bring the total to $120,000.
Maryland Athletic Director Dick Dull said Ross had been a top candidate from their first meeting, on Dec. 30, and that he offered Ross the job Sunday evening. Dull, Ross and university Chancellor Robert Gluckstern met in Albuquerque, N.M., Tuesday night for final agreement on the contract.
Ross, 44, said he is sure his offensive and defensive approaches will enable Maryland to win, and help considerably in filling Byrd Stadium, which should improve the school's football image.
"Winning alone is not sufficient," Dull said. "It has to be complemented by excitement."
Ross, who had been coaching the Kansas City Chiefs' running backs, was Claiborne's linebacker coach in 1972 before becoming head coach at The Citadel, where he earned a reputation as an excellent recruiter. Ross' salesmanship impressed Dull from the beginning.
"Bobby's educational philosophy was his greatest asset," Dull said. "But recruiting is the name of the game, and Bobby has always been a good recruiter. He has done a good job at schools that weren't on the top (William and Mary and Rice), and he did a good job of getting young men to come to a military school (The Citadel) in the middle 1970s when the mood of the country was totally against the military philosophy."
Ross will call upon that expertise immediately. He will visit with 25 prospective recruits this weekend and spend next week on the road trying to convince "student athletes" (Ross always says student athletes) that the state of transition at Maryland is not an unhealthy situation.
"It's late," Ross said. "But it's not too late. We're behind but we intend to catch up. It will mean some long, hard hours and a lot of travel. But I knew that when I took the job and I'm certainly up for it." Assisting Ross will be George Foussekis and Gib Romaine, two Claiborne assistants who have been retained.
Ross arrived here late Wednesday and has not had time to outline his recruiting goals or what positions will demand his most immediate attention. But he did say he had heard that the Terrapin defensive backfield, the worst in the Atlantic Coast Conference last season, "might be an area of some concern.
"I don't know why Maryland had a 4-6-1 record this past season. The program certainly isn't down. It's up, and I want to keep it that way."
Ross said he wanted the Maryland job "the moment I saw Coach Claiborne had left for Kentucky.
"I was dropping my son off at the airport (Dec. 16) when I saw (in the morning newspaper) that Coach Claiborne had left. Dick Dull doesn't know this but I called him, right then, from the airport. I'm not trying to hide the fact that I wanted this job very badly."
Asked to describe himself, as a football coach, Ross replied, "I have very strong philosophies on offense (the balance between passing and running) and on defense (a modified wide-tackle-six formation). But I like to have assistants who will differ with me, assistants who will initiate strong discussion about strategy and philosophies. That's the only way to improve as a coach and improve the program. I will lean on my assistants very heavily.
"And I would like to believe that I'm a communicator," he said. "I plan to spend a lot of time with my players. The players will find they will be in my office many times, but not necessarily for something bad. I want to know them, and hear what they have to say."
One of Ross' long-range goals is to make Maryland "the No. 1 team in the country" in three to five years. "The University of Maryland has that potential," he said. "Clemson did it. There is no reason why Maryland can't have the same success."
Ross' immediate goal will be to beat Penn State in Maryland's first game next season. "I think playing Penn State on the first game is great," he said. "I'm excited about it already. Penn State doesn't have anything to offer that Maryland doesn't have. I'm ready to go to work."