After a pair of NCAA championships, more than 500 career wins and a quarter-century as a head coach in the collegiate ranks, Alabama-Huntsville head coach Doug Ross has decided to hang up his skates at the end of the 2006-07 season, retiring after 25 years as the Chargers’ skipper.
“I have coached ice hockey for more than 30 years and I am very proud of my work here at UAH for the past 25 years,” said Ross. “I’m proud of all of the accomplishments of the hockey team and will always remain supportive of the University mission and athletics department’s goals.
“Many of our hockey graduates live in Huntsville and are very productive in the community. They have been great ambassadors for UAH and the state of Alabama throughout the years competing against the top NCAA teams in the nation and that is something I am extremely proud of.”
“Coach Ross has served UAH extremely well, building a strong hockey program, bringing excellent student athletes to our university, and winning national championships along the way,” said UAH President Dr. Frank A Franz. “We are deeply grateful to him for his distinguished service.”
Chosen by the Alabama Sports Writers Association as the 1998 Sington Award recipient as collegiate Coach of the Year, Ross has been a driving force in the hockey community in Huntsville. The 1976 Olympian helped start the youth termite program in the “Rocket City” and has led numerous youth camps and clinics including those for the Huntsville Hockey Amateur Hockey Association (HAHA).
“I can’t thank Doug enough for what he has done for the sport of hockey not only here at UAH, but also in the community of Huntsville and the state of Alabama,” noted Director of Athletics Jim Harris. “The foundation and tradition that he established here will certainly help us as we move forward in Division I ice hockey and finding a new head hockey coach.”
The dean of coaches in College Hockey America, Ross’ legacy began in 1982 taking over the reins of the program from Joe Ritch. A top-tier club team, Ross kept the momentum going leading UAH to back-to-back club national championships in 1983 and 1984. Soon after, the UAH program was elevated to NCAA status and the success continued for the Chargers.
“As a personal friend for the past 25 years, I have admired his continuous efforts to elevate the UAH hockey from club to NCAA Division I status,” said Ritch, now a member of the University of Alabama system Board of Trustees.
“Doug brought UAH championships, unique notoriety, and national respect in the collegiate hockey world. We all owe Doug Ross a debt of gratitude for his commitment to UAH and hockey for this state. I look forward to the upcoming coaching search which will continue to ensure UAH hockey success.”
UAH’s success as the only NCAA hockey team south of the Mason-Dixon line continued under Ross’ tutelage through the late ’80s and early ’90s as the Chargers spent time in both the Division I and Division II ranks of the NCAA. Ross’ squads in the middle ’90s were ranked among the best in the nation as UAH won national titles in ’96 and ’98 and finished as runner up in ’94 and ’97. During that time, the Chargers were featured by Sports Illustrated, ESPN and the NBC Nightly News.
The 1998-99 season brought about a new era for the Charger program as UAH returned to the Division I ranks under Ross’ leadership. During that time, the Chargers have continued their winning ways as members of the CHA, winning a pair of league championships while competing against the best teams in the nation.
“I thank the University for the opportunity to coach such fine outstanding young men as well as the UAH players, coaches and staff along with the Von Braun Center and local media for their support,” said Ross. “To the fans and my many good friends in Huntsville, thank you for your friendship and continued support of me and the UAH program. I hope to remain living in Huntsville and possibly continuing on in a support role at UAH as well as working within the community.”
In his 28th year of coaching, Ross has compiled a record of 503-297-43 (.622) after coaching one season at Ohio in 1976-77 and two seasons at Kent State from 1979-81. Ross’ career mark in NCAA contests ranks him in the top 10 among active coaches in winning percentage and 19th all-time among NCAA coaches.
“During my career, I have placed an emphasis on loyalty, trust, team spirit and friendship and provided continuity,” noted Ross. “I am 100 percent a UAH Charger and will continue to be a huge fan and supporter of the program.”
A national search for the third coach in the history of the program is expected to begin immediately; a search committee comprised of UAH staff, community members, and members of the local hockey community has been convened. A press conference is slated for noon on Tuesday in the “Varsity Room” of Spragins Hall on the campus of UAH to discuss the direction of the Charger program.
Ross and the 2006-07 Charger squad are coming off a solid performance in the Dodge Holiday Classic last weekend. UAH fell 3-1 to top-ranked Minnesota on their home ice on Friday night before rebounding in the consolation game with a 5-2 win over Massachusetts. The Chargers return to action on Jan. 12-13, hosting CHA foe Robert Morris at the Von Braun Center.