Bobby-Ross-Detroit Lions

Bobby Ross as Detroit Lions head coach in the late 1990's

Bobby Ross
Sport(s) Football
Biographical details
Born December 23 1936 (1936-12-23) (age 83)
Place of birth Richmond, Virginia
Playing career
1956–1958 VMI
Position(s) Quarterback, defensive back
Coaching career (HC unless noted)
VMI (assistant)
William & Mary (assistant)
Rice (assistant)
Maryland (assistant)
The Citadel
Kansas City Chiefs (ST)
Georgia Tech
San Diego Chargers
Detroit Lions
Head coaching record
Overall 103–101–2 (college)
77–68 (NFL)
Bowls 4–2
College Football Data Warehouse
Accomplishments and honors
1 National (1990)
4 ACC (1983–1985, 1990)
Career player statistics (if any)'

Robert Joseph Ross (born December 23, 1936) is a former American football player and coach. He served as the head football coach at The Citadel (1973–1977), the University of Maryland, College Park (1982–1986), the Georgia Institute of Technology (1987–1991), and the United States Military Academy (2004–2006), compiling a career college football record of 103–101–2. Ross was also the head coach of the National Football League's San Diego Chargers from 1992 to 1996 and the Detroit Lions from 1997 to 2000, tallying a career NFL mark of 77–68. He guided his 1990 Georgia Tech squad to a share of the national championship and coached the 1994 San Diego Chargers to an appearance in Super Bowl XXIX.

Education and playing careerEdit

After graduating from Benedictine High School in 1955, Ross enrolled at the Virginia Military Institute, where he started at quarterback and defensive back for two seasons and served as captain of the football team as a senior. Ross graduated from VMI in 1959 with a bachelor of arts degree in English and history.

Coaching careerEdit

Early yearsEdit

Following a tour of duty in the United States Army as a first lieutenant (1960–1962), Ross found work coaching high school football. He coached at Colonial Heights High School, and at his own nearby alma mater of Benedictine, both located near Richmond, Virginia. He then moved on to coaching at the college level, starting with assistant coaching stints at William & Mary, Rice, and Maryland before accepting his first head coaching job in 1973 at The Citadel, located in Charleston, South Carolina.

Ross was the 16th head football coach for The Citadel Bulldogs and held that position for five seasons, from 1973 until 1977. His career coaching record at The Citadel was 24 wins, 31 losses, and 0 ties. As of the conclusion of the 2007 season, this ranks him seventh at The Citadel in total wins and 16th at The Citadel in winning percentage.[1]

Ross then spent four years as an assistant coach with the Kansas City Chiefs (1978–1981)[2] before returning to the collegiate ranks as head coach at Maryland. He won three consecutive Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) Championships from 1983 to 1985. After four years, Ross left Maryland to coach the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets team. As head coach of Georgia Tech in 1990, he led the Jackets to a 11–0–1 record and the ACC championship—the school's first conference title since 1952, while they were still in the Southeastern Conference. They also won a share of the national championship by finishing first in the final Coaches' Poll. Ross won the Paul "Bear" Bryant Award and the Bobby Dodd Coach of the Year Award.[3][4][5]

San Diego ChargersEdit

He then left to become head coach of the San Diego Chargers,[6] where the highlight of his tenure would be an AFC Championship and San Diego's first trip to the Super Bowl after the 1994 season where they fell to the 49ers 49-26. Ross' first season in San Diego (1992) saw the Chargers drop the first four regular season games, but they recovered to win 11 of their final 12 games to win the AFC West, their first division title since 1981.[2] In his five seasons with the Chargers, they won two division titles and made the playoffs three times. His regular season coaching record with the Chargers was 47–33, and 3–3 in the playoffs.

Detroit LionsEdit

Following the 1996 season, Ross left the Chargers to take a more lucrative, and perhaps more rewarding position as the Head Coach of the Detroit Lions, where he would have control of all player personnel decisions and be able to hire his own staff. He held the position until the middle of the 2000 season. Detroit had long been considered underachievers under Wayne Fontes, and Ross was brought in to provide the team a more structured atmosphere. It was a challenging endeavor, as Detroit had developed somewhat of a "country club" atmosphere under Fontes' leadership, and veteran players on the roster ultimately came to resent Ross for running tougher practices, instilling weight requirements, curfews, etc. Ross sought to change the identity of the Detroit Lions, having them become a more traditional, physical, football team—less co-dependent on Barry Sanders for success.

He structured his drafts accordingly, drafting highly regarded college offensive linemen such as Stockar McDougall and Aaron Gibson, who both never panned out professionally. Ultimately, Ross was unable to change the culture in Detroit. He became frustrated at what he perceived to be the team's lack of effort, accusing them of just playing for their paychecks.[7] In November 2000, following a home loss to the Miami Dolphins, having had enough of what he called his team's unwillingness to "fight back," he resigned in mid-season.[8] Although his frustration with the Lions organization was evident, Ross later claimed that his primary reason for leaving when he did was due to blood clots in his legs.[2] Until 2011, Bobby Ross was the last Head Coach of a Detroit playoff team (1999). It is also noteworthy to mention that the 1999 Detroit team achieved the playoffs despite the unexpected retirement of Barry Sanders prior to training camp.

Army Black KnightsEdit

As head coach at Army, Ross reportedly received $600,000 in annual salary, which was seen as evidence of Army's eagerness to right the program after the team's 0–13 record in 2003.[9] During his three year term as Army head coach, Ross improved their record to 9–25, up from 4–32 over the three years before Ross's arrival. Ross retired from coaching in 2007.[10][11]

Personal lifeEdit

Ross and his wife, Alice, have three sons, two daughters, and 17 grandchildren. Their sons Chris and Kevin graduated from the United States Air Force Academy and United States Naval Academy, in 1984 and 1988, respectively. Kevin served for a time as Army's offensive coordinator and running backs coach under his father, but was not kept in that post under Ross's replacement, Stan Brock.


In 1997, Ross was inducted into the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame.

Head coaching recordEdit


Year Team Overall Conference Standing Bowl/playoffs Coaches# AP°
The Citadel Bulldogs (Southern Conference) (1973–1977)
1973 The Citadel 3–8 1–6 T–6th
1974 The Citadel 4–7 2–4 T–6th
1975 The Citadel 6–5 3–3 3rd
1976 The Citadel 6–5 2–4 T–6th
1977 The Citadel 5–6 3–2 2nd
The Citadel: 24–31 11–19
Maryland Terrapins (Atlantic Coast Conference) (1982–1986)
1982 Maryland 8–4 5–1 2nd L Aloha 20 20
1983 Maryland 8–4 5–1 1st L Citrus
1984 Maryland 9–3 6–0 1st W Sun 11 12
1985 Maryland 9–3 6–0 1st W Cherry 19 18
1986 Maryland 5–5–1 2–3–1 5th
Maryland: 39–19–1 24–5–1
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (Atlantic Coast Conference) (1987–1991)
1987 Georgia Tech 2–9 0–6 8th
1988 Georgia Tech 3–8 0–7 8th
1989 Georgia Tech 7–4 4–3 T–4th
1990 Georgia Tech 11–0–1 6–0–1 1st W Citrus 1 2
1991 Georgia Tech 8–5 5–2 2nd W Aloha
Georgia Tech: 31–26–1 15–18–1
Army Black Knights (NCAA Division I-A/FCS Independent) (2004–2006)
2004 Army 2–9
2005 Army 4–7
2006 Army 3–9
Army: 9–25
Total: 103–101–2
      National championship         Conference title         Conference division title
#Rankings from final Coaches' Poll.
°Rankings from final AP Poll.


  1. Citadel Coaching Records
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Rodriguez, Justin. "Army's Bobby Ross: A lifetime in football", Times Herald-Record, 2006-06-30. Retrieved on 2007-08-10. 
  3. Clarke, Michael. "Football program builds on strong history", The Technique, 2005-09-16. Retrieved on 2007-08-10. Archived from the original on 2007-09-29. 
  4. 1990 National Championship. New Georgia Encyclopedia. Retrieved on 2007-08-10.
  5. Past Winners. Bobby Dodd Coach of the Year Foundation. Archived from the original on 2007-09-02. Retrieved on 2007-08-10.
  6. "SPORTS PEOPLE: PRO FOOTBALL; Ross to Leave Ga. Tech And Coach Chargers", New York Times, 1992-01-01. Retrieved on 2007-08-10. 
  7. Freeman, Mike. "PRO FOOTBALL: NOTEBOOK; Ross Accuses His Lethargic Lions (1-4) of Playing Only for Their Paychecks", New York Times, 1998-10-11. Retrieved on 2007-11-04. 
  8. George, Thomas. "ON PRO FOOTBALL; In Detroit, a Coach Is Undone in Full View", New York Times, 2000-11-08. Retrieved on 2007-11-04. 
  9. Pennington, Bill. "COLLEGE FOOTBALL; Army Views Hiring as Money Well Spent", New York Times, 2003-12-27. Retrieved on 2007-05-30. 
  10. "Bobby Ross Announces Retirement From Coaching",, 2007-01-29. Retrieved on 2007-08-10. 
  11. "Ross retires after 3-9 season at Army", ESPN,, 2007-01-29. Retrieved on 2007-08-10. 

External linksEdit

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