Ross put his all into program
Bryan Ross sat behind his desk in his office Friday afternoon and answered every question I had to ask. My hope is that it’s not the last interview we ever do.
Ross, just moments earlier, had told the Siloam Springs football team that he had resigned as head football coach after nine years in the position and 14 years total in the district.
Someone new will be sitting in that seat in the coming months.
Since coming to Northwest Arkansas in the summer of 2006, I’ve dealt with a lot of football coaches. But three head coaches in particular I have spent more time with than others because of their being the head coach for the team I cover.
Those three guys are legendary head coaches Ronnie Peacock (Rogers) and Barry Lunney Sr. (Bentonville) … and Bryan Ross.
I first met Bryan Ross back in November 2007 when I was a sports writer for the Benton County Daily Record. I was covering Rogers that season, but the Mounties had fallen short of the Class 7A playoffs, so I spent the next week working on a feature story about the explosive Siloam Springs offense heading into their Class 5A playoff game at Batesville.
When I got into town and visited with then-head coach Clint Ashcraft, he told me that he had a few kids in mind for me to interview, but Ashcraft also made it very clear to me that he wanted me to talk to his offensive coordinator, Bryan Ross.
So that’s just what I did. I don’t remember much about the interview honestly, but I do remember Ross and five players — Nathan Nall, Roger Jackson, Tim Davis, Cody Hittson and Robert Hooper — gathering in the stands at Glenn W. Black Stadium for a photograph that ran as the main art in the paper.
I moved on to the Bentonville beat in 2008 and 2009, and at the end of the 2009 season, through a newspaper merger, my job was moved to Siloam Springs and I became the beat writer for the Panthers.
Getting reacquainted with Ross wasn’t difficult. We both share a love for Major League Baseball, and I like him despite his love for the St. Louis Cardinals.
Over the years, he and I have worked together as newspaper reporter and head coach, and I can tell you that from a reporter’s perspective, Bryan Ross has been a dream to work with.
He took my calls, and if he didn’t answer, he returned them as soon as he was able. He responded to text messages and emails. He answered every question I ever asked, even though I’m sure there were times he wished I had just left him alone.
I can only hope the next Siloam Springs head coach will be as accommodating.
There were some truly great moments in the Bryan Ross era of Siloam Springs football. The first big win has to be the Panthers’ upset of Greenwood in 2010, Siloam Springs’ only victory over the Bulldogs since 1994.
The Panthers also took out Greenbrier on the road that year when Greenbrier had a Division I quarterback and a terrific offensive football team.
Another highlight was an offensive uprising and victory at Rogers Heritage in 2011.
In 2013, there was an exciting come-from-behind tie against Shiloh Christian at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium to open the year, a near win at Springdale Har-Ber and a road playoff win at Searcy.
The 2014 year saw several good road wins: at Claremore, Okla., at Alma, at Russellville and capped by a home win against Texarkana in the Class 6A playoffs.
In 2015, the Panthers opened the season 3-0, including two wins at brand new Panther Stadium in its first year.
The last two seasons, the wins have come too few and far between. Ross recognizes that. It’s time to give someone else a shot at leading this program.
But the lack of victories didn’t come from a lack of work put in by Ross and his staff. In fact, when talking to opposing coaches, they would tell me that Siloam Springs players were always coached so well, knew what to do, and were in the right positions. It’s just that a lot of the times the players they were going up against were better football players.
These same coaches have all the respect in the world for Bryan Ross. I’m not sure any other coach would have had the guts to stay and lead the Panthers through their transition from a Class 5A school in 2011 to being the only 6A team playing in a conference full of 7A teams in 2012. Bryan Ross stuck through it, and that’s to be admired.
I’m confident Ross will have opportunities to continue coaching somewhere. That’s why I said I hope Friday wasn’t our last interview.
Ross is a good football coach with a great feel for the game. If there’s a knock about him — if you really can call it a knock — it’s that he’s not a big “rah rah” guy. He’s not a used car salesman. He’s not a preacher going around shaking hands and kissing babies. That’s not his style.
But he’s a dang good football coach and a true professional. I’m glad for the chance to get to work with him.
— Graham Thomas is the managing editor for the Herald-Leader. He can be reached at email@example.com. The opinions expressed are those of the author.
Siloam Springs head football coach Bryan Ross resigned Friday after nine seasons. The Panthers went 30-64-1 under Ross, who was an assistant coach for five years prior to becoming head coach.