The University of Maryland will do whatever it can to keep football Coach Bobby Ross happy, including finding a way to make major renovations in Byrd Stadium and convincing him of the school's commitment to a big-time program, Chancellor John Brooks Slaughter said yesterday.
Ross recently rejected a 10-year contract in favor of a one-year deal worth an estimated base salary of $80,000 and another $60,000 in television and radio packages, it was learned. His previous one-year contract was reported to include a base salary of $70,000, plus $45,000 in television and radio income. Ross would not comment on his salary.
"The university's commitment is full-bore," Slaughter said yesterday. "We're very proud of him and the program. We're as supportive as possible."
He acknowledged that Ross decided against the long-term contract, which he initially agreed to in principal with Maryland Athletic Director Dick Dull last December, because he was not convinced the school would provide major renovations to 45,000-seat Byrd Stadium.
"We want very much to have a long-term agreement and we're doing everything we can to convey that," Slaughter said. "The key thing is facilities. Right now he wants to see some stronger indications of our ability to make improvements to them."
Ross agreed that renovations were the main obstacle to a long-term contract, and that discussions are ongoing.
"I understand my role and the priorities of the school, that they should be academic," he said. "I have a little concern that people are seeing me as 'do-this-or-else' person. That's not the case at all. All I want is a fair chance to compete against the people we will play. I see improvements in that area as a very important part of the program. It's a question of the long-range plans for the stadium."
Byrd Stadium was built in 1950 and is antiquated compared to the facilities of many of Maryland's opponents. Some work already is being done: the practice field has been improved and the Byrd Stadium field is being resodded. But a plan for permanent lights was shelved until next winter when it was learned that they would cost $650,000.
"It has always bothered Bobby that our facilities are not up to the standards of others," Dull said. "He's not motivated by financial concerns. More money is not going to come into it. He is concerned about the commitment of the state and university to the program."
The university plans to begin construction after the 1986 season on an $8 million upper deck and new press box that would add 8,000 seats. The upper deck is expected to cost the athletic department $800,000 anually for the next 30 years. Funding for that debt will have to come through student fees, increased gate receipts, and more television money. It also will have to come from the state legislature, according to Dull.
"I need help on something like the stadium," Dull said. "This department cannot do it on its own. I can build lights and a new locker room, but nothing like major construction."
Slaughter, however, said that to expect funds from the state for extensive stadium work is "unrealistic." Instead, he said, he is personally working on alternate sources of funding, such as private donations.
"We'll try to see what we can mount in the private sector," he said. " . . . We're trying hard to identify our program (for renovations) and get some indication from the community that they support it. If we are putting together a campaign for resources, then we need to define the fundamentals."
Slaughter said he met with Ross and Dull a month ago to discuss the stadium situation and to try to iron out other differences between the football program, athletic department and the rest of the university. Ross said he has also been somewhat dissatisfied with inconsistent admissions standards that make it more difficult to recruit student athletes, and he has been frustrated by bureaucratic problems in getting athletes through admissions.
"My concerns have been that I just want to be given the guidelines," he said. "I was told the procedures I should follow, and I follow them, but sometimes I run into a problem, whether it's in the process or in the actual admission. I just want it laid out for me. I think we're still working on that."
Slaughter acknowledged that there may have been some breakdowns in communication between the football office and other areas of the university.
One particular problem has been a backup in processing student-athlete applications, which have been buried in the admissions department. Last year one player was not told of his acceptance until it was too late for him to be admitted, and had to wait a semester. One source said that has happened "on more than one occasion."
"At a large institution it is always possible to have omissions of that sort," Slaughter said. "It's something I try to be sensitive to . . . But it was not intended to convey a lack of support to the football program, and Bobby knows that."