Working with a national firm, a search committee comprised of Allegheny students, faculty and staff chose to bring 23 years of Allegheny experience to the helm of the athletic department with the hiring of Bill Ross as director of athletics and recreation.
“Going into the process, I said it’s going to be tough to find anybody that’s going to be able to compete with Bill Ross, being around the school for so long, seeing its ups and downs, peaks and valleys,” said Karol Vargas, ’19, a student and former student-athlete who served on the search committee. “He knows everybody here; everybody loves Bill. Most importantly, Bill had that first thing that I had just said; he wants to win. He wants to bring Allegheny back.”
Ross’s official hiring was announced via a press release on the Allegheny athletics website Feb. 26, 2019. Ross formerly served as interim director of athletics and recreation since July 2018. Ross said he approached Executive Vice President Eileen Petula and expressed interest in serving in the interim role to maintain smooth operations in the athletic department.
“I think just the nature of athletics is so fast-moving that so often, it’s a good idea to have one person in charge, ultimately making some tough decisions so we can keep moving forward on things,” Ross said. “I told (Petula), ‘It’s a goal of mine to become an athletic director, it’s a great way for me to try on the hat and see whether I like it or not.’”
Ross has worn multiple hats in his Gator athletics career. He came to Allegheny in 1996 after he was hired as the head coach of the men’s and women’s track and field and cross country teams. Ross’s coaching tenure included a record 31 NCAC Coach of the Year honors.
Ross made the official move to administration in 2010, when he was hired as associate director of athletics and recreation. Ross said he was eager to make the transition, despite his love of coaching. Ross served on several committees during his coaching tenure that gave him a taste of the kind of role he now holds.
“Whenever there was a committee, I was like ‘Me! Can I do it?’” Ross said. “I really enjoy the administrative side of sport. Even though I obviously had a lot of success in the coaching realm, whenever you can help institute change, to me I find that exciting.”
During his seven-month tenure in his former interim role, Ross oversaw the addition of two new varsity sports for a total of 23 Allegheny varsity sports. Ross also oversaw the official renaming of the performance arena at the David V. Wise Center after President James Mullen. Ross spoke to the Allegheny community during the unveiling of the newly names James H. Mullen Jr. Arena, or “Jim’s Gym.”
“I think (Ross) made a first step with that basketball game versus Wabash when they renamed the basketball arena,” Vargas said. “You could really tell that the way he spoke to the crowd and the crowd responds and loves the way (Ross) talks to them really fires everybody up, including the athletes. When he would come talk to the football team, for example, we were always really riled up to see (Ross).”
That ability to “fire everybody up” made Ross a standout, especially combined with his decades of experience, according to Vargas. He said it was particularly meaningful for him as a student to see that the college had hired internally instead of serving as a sort of “revolving door with the faculty and staff.”
“He’s really a guy that is excited about Allegheny, excited about the athletics here, and that’s just something that everybody on the committee couldn’t stop talking about,” Vargas said.
Ross said his intimate knowledge of Allegheny made his hire meaningful for him as well.
“I think it’s great in the sense that the institutional knowledge that I have, not only within the athletic department but across campus,” Ross said. “Even though I’m not a graduate of Allegheny College, being here for over 20 years, you can basically say I’m a graduate. That affinity is there.”
It was this affinity that Ross said is more important than his experience in his administrative role.
“I think it’s helpful to not only have historical perspective, yes, but more importantly that love, that excitement about being deeply involved,” Ross said.
Moving forward, Ross said his short-term goals are to continue to provide support for coaches and remove any obstacles standing between student-athletes and their greatest potential for success in both academic and athletic realms.
In the long term, Ross said he hopes to work under the motto “cultivating a culture of perpetual success” and promote sustainability in the athletic department until everyone can achieve success regardless of changes in staff at both administrative and coaching levels.
“We do that through mentoring of the coaches, hiring good coaches when coaches leave, making sure those coaches are paying attention to who they’re recruiting, they’re going after student athletes who are good fits for Allegheny College,” Ross said.
Sean King, assistant athletic director for communications and media relations, said he is confident that Ross will be able to achieve these goals.
“They found a leader with a vision that will help carry Allegheny into the future and will bring in student athletes that will play an integral role in the campus community,” King said. “I think as we head into a new era here at Allegheny with Dr. Link’s presidency upcoming, I think (Ross) is the right person to lead us into the future of Allegheny College.”