Georgia Tech Head Coach, 1987-91
Record at Tech: 31-26-1 (.535), 5 years
In five years as Georgia Tech's head coach, Bobby Ross restored the Tech program to national prominence, highlighted by the 1990 national championship.
From 1989-91, Ross led the Yellow Jackets to three consecutive seven-win seasons for the first time in nearly 30 years, as well as consecutive bowl berths in 1990-91 for the first time in 20 years. After struggling through a 5-20 mark in his first 25 games on the Flats, Ross teams then won 18 of their next 20 games.
In 1990, Ross directed Tech to the United Press International national championship as the nationÕs only unbeaten team at 11-0-1 following a convincing win over Nebraska in the Florida Citrus Bowl. The Jackets won the first Atlantic Coast Conference title in school history and their first national and conference championship of any kind since 1952.
A consensus National Coach of the Year and the ACC Coach of the Year, Ross returned Tech to the glory days of Bobby Dodd as the No. 1 ranked team by UPI, The Sporting News and Scripps Howard.
Ross collected the biggest win of his coaching career in 1990 when the Jackets knocked off No. 1-ranked Virginia, 41-38, in a nationally televised thriller in Charlottesville. A two-touchdown underdog, Tech came back from deficits of 13-0 and 28-14 before kicking the winning field goal with seven seconds left for an historic victory that vaulted the Yellow Jackets into the national spotlight.
Tech capped the storybook season by making its first appearance in a New Year's Day bowl since 1966 with its trip to the Citrus Bowl, beating Nebraska 45-21.
Georgia Tech's success of 1990 was earmarked by the strong finish of the 1989 campaign, when Tech won seven of its last eight games to a post a 7-4 record. Bobby Ross football was in evidence over the last eight games of the 1989 season, combining a balanced, yet explosive offense with hard-hitting defensive football. It was this kind of football that allowed Ross to guide Maryland to three Atlantic Coast Conference titles and four post-season bowl games during his five autumns as head coach in College Park.
But the turnaround of 1989 was really foreshadowed by RossÕ 1988 squad, which managed just a 3-8 record but lost six games by a total of 32 points and literally came within three plays of a winning season. But that squad did record one of the great upsets in Tech history when the Jackets downed unbeaten and eighth-ranked South Carolina, 34-0.
In 1991 in his final year on the Flats, Ross guided the Jackets to an 8-5 mark and a victory in the Aloha Bowl, marking Tech's first back-to-back bowl berths since 1971-72 and its first consecutive bowl victories since 1955-56. Following the win over Stanford, Ross accepted the head coaching position of the San Diego Chargers.
Ross coached two first-team all-Americas at Tech in free safety Ken Swilling and outside linebacker Marco Coleman, a first-round draft pick in the NFL, as well as a total of 24 all-ACC honorees, led by Swilling, Coleman, quarterback Shawn Jones, cornerback Willie Clay, tackle Darryl Jenkins and placekicker Scott Sisson. Fullback Stefen Scotton was a two-time Academic all-America.
But Ross brought a lot more than a resume of ACC championship rings, bowl game trophies, all-Americas and pro players to Georgia Tech. The respect for him stems from his integrity as a fair and caring coach who wants his players to reach their potential in both academics and athletics.
Ross became only the eighth full-time head football coach in Tech history on Jan. 5, 1987, after a month as an assistant coach with the Buffalo Bills of the National Football League.
In a departure of tradition, Ross was Tech's first head football coach since Heisman not to have been a former Tech assistant coach or player prior to his hiring by Director of Athletics Dr. Homer Rice. Not coincidentally, he also entered the position with more college victories on his record prior to his tenure in Atlanta than any previous coach in Tech history.
So when Ross' predecessor, Bill Curry, opted for the head coaching position at Alabama, Rice wasted little time hiring Ross scarcely more than 24 hours later.
Ross had joined the Buffalo Bills, renewing an association with Bills head coach Marv Levy, on Dec. 1 after five successful seasons at Maryland. His Terrapin teams were known for their explosive offenses that resulted in the unprecedented success in College Park.
During that time, Maryland compiled a 39-19-1 mark, a winning percentage of .672, against what annually was one of the nation's toughest schedules.
With an exciting, imaginative offense, Ross' Maryland squads averaged 28.1 points per outing in his 59 games at the school. Maryland led the ACC in total offense in 1984 and 1985, in passing offense in 1984 and 1986 and in scoring offense in 1982, 1984 and 1985. Those Terrapins offenses were led by future NFL quarterbacks Boomer Esiason, Frank Reich and Stan Gelbaugh.
Even his first Tech team nearly broke the school's all-time season passing record with 2,284 yards, the most yards by air for a Tech squad since the record of 2,376 yards was set in 1968. His 1989 Tech squad saw freshman quarterback Shawn Jones record the third-highest single-season total yardage mark in Tech history (2,078), while running back Jerry Mays had the Jackets' second-best single-season rushing total (1,349) ever.
Ross' teams, though, have played defense as well. Maryland led the league in scoring and rushing defense in 1982 and in total and rushing defense in 1985, while in 1988, Georgia Tech was the ACCÕs top team in pass defense and third in total defense. In 1991, the Jackets ranked eighth in the nation in total defense and among the Top 15 nationally against both the run and the pass.
In his first season at College Park, Ross was named ACC Coach of the Year as well as District III Coach of the Year after the 1982 campaign that saw Maryland post an 8-4 record and earn a trip to the Aloha Bowl in Honolulu, Hawaii. That year he was also named national Coach of the Year by the Washington Touchdown Club.
His second Maryland squad in 1983 also recorded an 8-4 record and was chosen for the Florida Citrus Bowl. His 1984 squad posted a 9-3 mark, including a win over Tennessee in the Sun Bowl, and his 1985 squad also managed a 9-3 mark with a win over Syracuse in the Cherry Bowl.
In his first four years at Maryland, the Terrapins won 21 of 22 ACC games, including a winning streak of 17 straight conference games.
Perhaps if there was any one game indicative of his all-out, never-say-die coaching style it might have been MarylandÕs thrilling 42-40 win over nationally-ranked Miami during the 1984 season. Making the greatest comeback in Division I history, Ross coached the Terps from a 31-0 halftime deficit to a last-second win over the Hurricanes in the Orange Bowl in Miami.
Born Dec. 23, 1936 in Richmond, Va., Ross was a three-sport letterman at VMI in football, basketball, and baseball, He started at quarterback and defensive back for two seasons and served as captain of the football team as a senior. Ross graduated in 1959 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and History.
He credits his coach at VMI, former Georgia Tech assistant athletic director John McKenna, with being the major influence on his coaching career. McKenna's presence in Atlanta--the veteran college coach and administrator is now retired--was more than a small factor in Ross accepting the head coaching position at Georgia Tech.
Perhaps McKenna, a confidante of Ross throughout his career, knows the former VMI quarterback as well as anyone.
"I'll sum him up for you," said McKenna on the day Ross assumed his duties at Tech. ÒIf all the coaches in the country could be pooled for a draft, any school would do well to look at Bobby Ross closely and carefully. He's the best.
"You're talking about someone who went to a school where you could not lie, cheat, or steal, and lettered in three sports. He served in the military and recruited and coached at very tough academic schools. He's an astute student of the game, and he knows how to win, as a player and a coach. There's nobody better."
After a tour of duty in the U.S. Army as a First Lieutenant (1960-1962) and four years of coaching on the prep level, including two seasons as a head coach at Colonial Heights (Va.) High (1963-1964), he started his collegiate coaching career with McKenna at VMI as freshman football coach in 1965. He then spent one season as an assistant coach at VMI (1966), four years (1967-70) as an assistant at William and Mary, one year at Rice (1971) and one year at Maryland (1972) before becoming the head coach at The Citadel in 1973.
Ross, whose overall 14-year college head coaching record is 94-76-2 (.552), spent five seasons as head coach at The Citadel (1973-77) before leaving to become an assistant coach in the National Football League under Marv Levy with the Kansas City Chiefs in 1978.
After four seasons (1978-1981) with the Chiefs, Ross assumed the head coaching duties at Maryland prior to the 1982 season, succeeding Jerry Claiborne.
Bobby Ross Thumbnail Full Name: Robert Joseph "Bobby" Ross Birthdate: Dec. 23, 1936 in Richmond, Va. Education: Benedictine High School, Richmond, Va., 1955 B.A. Degree, VMI, 1959, English & History
High School Coaching Experience (4 years) Benedictine H.S., Richmond, Va., Head Coach 1 year (1959) Colonial Heights (Va.) H.S., Assistant Coach, 1 year (1962) Colonial Heights (Va.) Head Coach, 2 years (1963-64)
College Collegiate Experience (8 years) VMI, Freshman Coach, 1 year (1965) VMI, Assistant, Defensive Backs, 1 year (1966) William & Mary, Assistant, 4 years (Offensive Backs, 1967-68, Defensive Backs/Head of Recruiting, 1969; Defensive Coordinator/Head of Recruiting, 1970) Rice, Assistant, Linebackers/Head of Recruiting, 1 year (1971) Maryland, Assistant, Linebackers, 1 year (1972)
Collegiate Head Coaching Experience (15 years) The Citadel, 5 years (1973-77); Record: 24-31 Maryland, 5 years (1982-86); Record: 39-19-1 Georgia Tech, 5 years (1987-91); Record: 30-26-1
Professional Coaching Experience (4 years) Kansas City Chiefs, Assistant, 4 years (Special Teams and Defense, 2 years, 1978-79; Offensive Backs, 2 years, 1980-81) San Diego Chargers, Head Coach, 5 years (1992-96) Detroit Lions, Head Coach, 4 years (1997-2000)
Married: The former Alice Bucker of Richmond, Va. Children: Chris, Mary Catherine, Teresa, Kevin, Robbie
Coaching Record (At Georgia Tech) 1987 2-9 1988 3-8 1989 7-4 1990 11-0-1 (Citrus Bowl/ACC Champions/National Champions) 1991 8-5 (Aloha Bowl) Total 31-26-1 (.543)