Ross reflects fondly on stay with Terps Lions coach: 'I didn't want to leave Maryland'

November 09, 1997|By Bill Free | Bill Free,SUN STAFF

Bobby Ross said last week that he still thinks about what might have been at the University of Maryland in the late 1980s.

The memories flow for Ross, even though he has traveled a lot of miles since leaving the Terps 11 years ago -- winning a national collegiate title, coaching in a Super Bowl and now bringing the Detroit Lions to Jack Kent Cooke Stadium to meet the Washington Redskins today.

"I had as fine a group of players at Maryland as I've coached. TC loved the College Park community and campus and had an enjoyable experience there until I hit some situations," he said. "I didn't want to leave Maryland, but I did."

Those "situations" included the cocaine-induced death of basketball All-American Len Bias in June 1986 that spilled over into drug suspicions involving the football team, Maryland's inability to follow through on promised renovations for Byrd Stadium, the university's move toward more stringent academic regulations and a statement by interim athletic director Chuck Sturtz criticizing Ross for chasing after an official after a loss to North Carolina in Chapel Hill in 1986.

"Bobby Ross' actions were an embarrassment to the University of Maryland and the ACC," Sturtz said in the statement.

That apparently was the last straw for Ross in his decision to resign from Maryland.

In the first few days after Ross quit, his wife, Alice, said: "Maryland let Bobby know they didn't want him anymore."

There had been collisions between Ross and school officials over Byrd Stadium and tighter academic regulations that left Maryland with fewer exemptions for admission of football players than some of the schools on its schedule.

"I believe in a level playing field," Ross said at the time. "That's why I believe things are more fair in the NFL. Everybody plays by the same rules."

However, after Maryland, Ross took a five-year detour to Georgia Tech, then took the San Diego Chargers' job in 1992.

In 1990, Ross guided Georgia Tech to an 11-0-1 record and a No. 1 ranking in the final United Press International poll.

Ross was a consensus national Coach of the Year that season, while the Maryland program struggled to a 6-5-1 record after three straight losing seasons.

The losing at Maryland has continued in the '90s, but Ross insisted: "I don't get any pleasure out of all that. I certainly have to be sympathetic to the people who are trying to win games at Maryland. I hope they get it going."

Today will mark Ross' first game in Washington as a head coach in the NFL, and it will be something of a homecoming for the Richmond, Va., native.

"Everyone gets a chance to chase a dream and I'll have a little of that in Washington," Ross said. "I grew up listening to Harry Wismer do Redskins play-by-play on the radio and watching Bobby Mitchell and Eddie LeBaron. The Redskins were my team."

Detroit (4-5) at Washington (5-4)

Time: 1 p.m., chs. 45, 5

Line: Redskins by 3 1/2

Vs. spread: Lions 4-4; Redskins 5-4.

Last week: Lions lost to Packers, 20-10. Redskins beat Bears, 31-8.

Worth watching: Lions RB Barry Sanders can set an NFL record with his eighth straight 100-yard game. Redskins RB Terry Allen is healthy again, coming off a 125-yard effort against the Bears.

Outlook: Sanders should be able to run against the NFL's No. 29 rush defense. However, the Redskins are 5-1 when Allen plays, 0-3 when he doesn't, and Allen will play today. And, of course, the Redskins own the Lions, having won 17 in a row in the series.

Notable: Redskins CB Darrell Green (eight career interceptions against Detroit) is looking for his first interception of 1997.

Injuries:

LIONS: Questionable: RB Terry Battle (ankle); S Van Malone (groin). Probable: CB Bryant Westbrook (shoulder).

REDSKINS: Out: DE Jamal Duff (ankle). Questionable: T Ed Simmons (leg). Probable: DE Kelvin Kinney (leg); DT Chris Mims (abdomen); S Jesse Campbell (thumb); LB Ken Harvey (shoulder); DE Rich Owens (back); P Matt Turk (thigh); WR Michael Westbrook (knee).

Pub Date: 11/09/97

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