Bobby Ross said yesterday he expects to make a decision within 24 hours on whether he will remain as football coach at the University of Maryland or move to the University of Minnesota.
"In the next 24 hours, I'll have to arrive at a decision one way or the other," Ross said at a Cherry Bowl media day in Pontiac, Mich. "I don't know what I'm going to do. I have to go home and talk to my wife and my assistant coaches . . . I don't need 18 days to reflect on it, you know. I mean, what the hell, I've just got to sit down and think, and I really haven't even had time for that.
"I tried to stay up last night with my wife and talk about it, but I was so tired I knew I wasn't going to get a whole lot done. I've always found it best to sleep on things. And I was up at 5 o'clock this morning to come here, so I really haven't had the time. I've been reflecting on it a lot. I'm going to make a decision fast."
Ross also said, "I am happy at Maryland. Maryland has been awfully good to me. It really has. I just had that temporary moment there where some commitments were made and then we did not go ahead with them after I was told I was going to go ahead with them. But now I have been reassured and I feel very confident that we are in a totally gathered commitment."
Frank Wilderman, vice president for student affairs at Minnesota and chairman of the school's search committee, said yesterday that published reports were inaccurate that Ross had been offered the job when he visited the campus in Minneapolis Monday and Tuesday.
"If the job were to be offered, it would be offered by me, and it hasn't," Wilderman said. "The application process is still open until midnight tonight . . . I hope it's filled as soon as possible after the close of applications."
Apparently, Ross must decide that he will accept the job before it is formally offered to him, sources said.
Wilderman also denied published reports that Ross had been offered a five-year contract worth $1 million, saying negotiations had not reached that point with any of the candidates. However, he said that Lou Holtz, who resigned last week to become coach at Notre Dame, had a five-year contract that paid him $106,000 last year, plus a radio-television package worth at least $75,000.
Ross made $78,000 in salary and $60,000 from his radio and television package last year at Maryland.
Ross' proposed 10-year contract at Maryland includes an annuity to which private individuals will donate $15,000 annually for five years and which Ross will be entitled to receive after five years, a source said. With interest, that annuity should be worth at least $100,000 to Ross at that point. The contract has been on the table for more than six months. Salary and radio-television money are negotiated annually.
The same source said money is not Ross' primary motivation and that he has turned down numerous offers for endorsements that he did not feel comfortable doing.
Wilderman said Minnesota has spoken with an unspecified number of candidates other than Ross and John Gutekunst, the Gophers' defensive coordinator whom Holtz recommended for the job. Published reports in Minneapolis said that Gutekunst will be offered the job if Ross declines.
Early yesterday, a source close to the Ross family said there was a better than 50-50 chance that Ross, 49, would leave Maryland, where he has coached the past four years. But, later in the day, the same source said, "To me, it could go either way. It's a coin flip."
Dick Dull, Maryland's athletic director, said yesterday he is confident Ross will continue to coach the Terrapins. Dull returned to campus from Tuesday night's National Football Foundation Hall of Fame banquet in New York, where he also gave Pitt Athletic Director Ed Bozik permission to talk to Ross about the vacancy at that school.
"I don't think he wants to leave," Dull said. "He's indicated that to me. I'm still confident he's staying at Maryland." Dull also said that if Ross does take the Minnesota job, he will be asked to coach the Terrapins against Syracuse in the Cherry Bowl on Dec. 21.
Ross declined to sign a 10-year contract a year ago, citing concerns about Maryland's commitment on improving its stadium and about better communications and guidelines with the admissions department. He opted for his current one-year contract.
"I'm confident that the things that concerned him were satisfied," Dull said.
Asked why Ross would travel to Minneapolis and listen to an offer there if he was satisfied at Maryland, Dull said, "It's his future . . . It's a time when a man in his middle 40s has to decide whether he makes a change (in jobs) at this time because, when you get into your 50s, the options are not there. It's a normal process anyone of Bobby's age would go through in football."
Dull met for 90 minutes with Ross on Thanksgiving Day to give him a final update on admissions standards and stadium improvements. Dull also met with Chancellor John B. Slaughter in a separate meeting that day, according to a source.
Dull declined comment on any specifics of those two meetings.
Yesterday, in Pontiac, Ross said he opted for a one-year contract because "things had changed at Maryland. Now things have changed again at Maryland, and it looks like those things are going to be done."
But the source close to the Ross family said the stadium expansion, which would be funded through a bond issue and private donations, was "at least two steps" from the initiation of construction. Slaughter has endorsed the proposal. Now, it must be approved by the university's board of regents and then by the state legislature.
Ross was a leading candidate to become coach at Minnesota two years ago, but withdrew his name from consideration because the program was at the bottom of the Big Ten Conference.
"I wasn't in the mood to go through another rebuilding program," he said yesterday.
In two years under Holtz, Minnesota has built a new indoor practice facility, nicknamed "the Taj Ma Holtz." Holtz also recruited the nucleus for a solid program and the Gophers (6-5) will play in the Independence Bowl Dec. 21 against Clemson.
It was unclear last night whether Ross had spoken to Pitt officials. He was supposed to stop there for an interview with Bozik after leaving Pontiac. But Bozik was reported to be in Dallas, interviewing Pat Jones of Oklahoma State, leading candidate for the job, according to published reports.
Bozik has declined comment concerning the Panthers' search for a coach to replace Foge Fazio, who was fired last month.