Maryland Athletic Director Dick Dull said yesterday that while full-scale expansion of Byrd Stadium may be five years away, "I think the needs Bobby Ross has are going to be met."
Ross, pursued by the University of Missouri for its football coaching job, has expressed concern over the long-term commitment of the University of Maryland and the state to major college football.
Meanwhile, in Columbia, Mo., a source close to Missouri Athletic Director Dave Hart says he believes that Ross is using the Missouri opening as leverage for improving his program at Maryland. "Unless pushed to the wall, which they (Maryland) need to be, he'll never get the things to stay at the top of the ACC year in and year out," the source said. "This gives him that leverage."
Contacted at his home in Adelphi last night, Ross said that he and Dull tentatively are scheduled to meet late tonight to discuss the situation. Dull is returning today from El Paso, site of Maryland's Dec. 22 Sun Bowl game against Tennessee, and Ross is scheduled to attend a banquet earlier in the evening.
Ross said Tuesday one of the improvements he hoped would come about is the expansion of Byrd Stadium from 45,000 seats to approximately 60,000. Dull said expanding Byrd to more than 60,000 seats is not imminent, "because we couldn't fill a 60,000-seat stadium right now."
Maryland, in its first two home games this season, drew fewer than 40,000 and did not sell out any of four dates at Byrd Stadium.
Dull sympathized with Ross, saying yesterday, "I think the State of Maryland and the university have to show they are dedicated to major-college football. And you can't continue to build a big-time program on 35,000 to 40,000 people.
"Look at Tennessee (Maryland's opponent in the Sun Bowl Dec. 22), which drew 95,000 people last week for the game with Kentucky. If people in Maryland really care, they're going to have to make a commitment."
Dull, asked how concerned he is about Missouri's possibly taking Ross away from Maryland, said, "They all concern me. Certainly there are a lot of institutions . . . willing to pay big, big dollars for a coach of Bobby Ross' stature. I expect that to happen every year. And I certainly prefer having this than the alternative: a coach who nobody is interested in."
Sources point to several factors as making it likely that Ross would tell Missouri officials by the weekend that he is withdrawing as a candidate for the job: His wife likes Washington. He has one son in school in Annapolis, a daughter in school in Baltimore, parents in Richmond.
Dull pointed out that many improvements have already been made, such as the lights installed at the grass practice field, the team house that Dull said "is comparable with anybody's in the nation," the remodeled coaches' offices and a weight room Dull considers to be among the best.
Ross met with his players yesterday afternoon, but according to one player, did not mention anything about Missouri. All Ross did was talk about the upcoming bowl game, the player said.
Yesterday, Hart returned to Missouri from a trip in which he met with Ross, Vanderbilt's George McIntyre and Tulsa's John Cooper, according to a Missouri spokesman. Hart then met with Barbara S. Uehling, the university chancellor.
After that meeting, it was announced that Uehling would name an interview committee by the end of the week and that it would begin talking with candidates next week. Hart and Uehling will sit on that committee, the spokesman said.
The spokesman said Hart indicated that no more than three or four candidates will be interviewed for the job vacated when Warren Powers recently was fired. It was learned that Gene Murphy, coach at Cal State-Fullerton, likely would be among the top candidates if he does not take a similar job at Utah.
Other sources at Missouri said that Hart also has talked to other coaches at major schools about the program. Of the names being mentioned publicly at this time, the favorite appears to be Cooper.
In one possibly important development yesterday, Uehling decided not to waive the 30-day affirmative action guideline and hire a new coach under "emergency" provisions. The 30-day waiting period does not expire until Dec. 19.
"Maybe this could hurt our situation with Ross," said one Missouri official. "This stretches it out more than he would want."
Hart has said that he hoped to name a new coach by Dec. 5.
"I don't have a reaction right now (to the Dec. 19 date)," Ross said last night. "My situation is to resolve it as quickly as I could because of the effect it (his coaching status in limbo) would have on recruiting . . . That's my initial reaction."
Powers was 3-7-1 last season and attendance plummeted to an average of 47,000, a drop of 5,000 per game from 1983. Since 1979 -- Powers' second season -- average attendance has declined from an all-time high of 69,000.
Neither Hart nor Uehling was available for comment.