His voice is immediately recognizable. His name is quickly associated with high school and college radio and television broadcasts. Coaches, athletes and fellow media members have long admired his hard work, integrity and preparation.
Make no mistake about it, Dave Ross is an icon across Virginia with a resume that spans nearly 50 years.
Ross’ broadcasting career has been unique in its style. He’s been characterized as one not to dominate a conversation, he seldom gets upset or acts in a manner that would call attention to himself and despite the fact that most of his career has been spent behind the microphone or in front of cameras, Ross doesn’t seek the limelight.
Ross was born in Butler, PA where his exceptional broadcasting voice came naturally. His father was a Presbyterian minister who could get the congregation’s attention from the pulpit.
He attended Uniontown High School where he was a standout as a track sprinter and football halfback. His talent on the cinders led Ross to the honor of participating in the prestigious Penn Relays while running for Uniontown.
Track earned Ross a partial scholarship to Bowling Green State University where he ran track for four years. His prowess in the 100-yard dash included an impressive best time of 9.9 seconds and he was a member of the 4-man relay team, typically running in the first or second leg. Ross modestly claims that a couple of the other runners had lower times than himself.
“They would tell me, ‘Ross keep it close and we’ll bring it home,'” Ross recalls with a chuckle. It was at Bowling Green that Ross got his first taste of radio and television broadcasting with the campus radio station and local PBS TV station where he did news and sports.
While at Bowling Green, Ross was in the ROTC program, leading to a two-year stint in the U.S. Army after his graduation in 1969.
Ross spent his first year at an army depot near Scranton, PA. On weekends he was a DJ and did sports work for WDAU, the CBS affiliate in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. That job gave Ross the great opportunity for demo tapes, getting his talent and exceptional voice out to other stations.
The second year he was deployed to Vietnam where Ross received the Bronze Star awarded for meritorious service, an accomplishment he is very proud of. Later, in 1979, Ross was one of five Roanoke-area Vietnam veterans to be recognized and honored by then Roanoke Mayor Noel C.Taylor during the City Council’s regular meeting.
“In Vietnam I learned the importance of little things like a warm shower and a cold drink,” Ross reflected. “And, learning to fully appreciate life itself considering the 58,000 Americans who lost their lives during the war.”
After returning from his tour in Vietnam, Ross was hired by WUTR in Utica, New York as their sports director, covering high school sports and area colleges such as Utica, Colgate, Hamilton and Syracuse University. The station was one of the first to do tape delay broadcasts and Ross introduced a 30-minute sports show that featured the top area sports stories. It was a hit since no other stations focused on sports and turned out to be so popular that he was presented Utica’s Key to the City for his innovative ideas.
While in Utica, Ross met his wife, Joyce, and they were married in 1974. They have a daughter, Sarah, who is married to Billy Boswell, the two later giving Ross his pride and joy, grandson William.
Ross stayed at WUTR for four years when the lure of bigger money brought him to Roanoke in 1975 as the sports director of WSLS TV. He remained at WSLS until 1982 as his voice and broadcasting delivery became prominent across Central and Southwest Virginia.
After a brief stint as radio broadcaster for Virginia Tech basketball, Ross joined Fox 21/27 in 1986 where he took high school sports to a new level. It began that year with playoff football, and by the following year Ross was producing a game of the week throughout the area.
“It caught on quickly and people liked the concept,” Ross says. “It was something no one else did.”
The rest is history. Ross became a broadcast staple of high school sports, expanding his coverage to basketball as well as football. Working for stations that served wide geographical regions, he has broadcast high school games throughout Central and Southwest Virginia during the regular season, as well as statewide during VHSL regional and state playoffs.
It is commonplace to find Ross at the Salem Civic Center for regional girls and boys basketball and the Virginia Commonwealth University Siegel Center for state playoffs. In football, depending on the teams, he can be found at one of the three VHSL playoff venues.
And, don’t think Ross takes a break during the high school football and basketball offseasons. In that 31-year time span, Ross has added high school wrestling, high school golf in the form of the Scott Robertson Memorial, Virginia Slims tennis, Big East softball, ice hockey, Tour de Pont cycling, soccer, lacrosse and regular coaches shows.
In 2014 Ross was asked by WDBJ7 general manager Mike Bell to head up the weekly high school football broadcast on My19, in coordination with a broadcasting class from Franklin County High School, where students and two teachers handle the production, mobile unit, set-up and cameras. The result was a professional gamecast with Ross holding down the play-by-play microphone duties.
Ross has had a variety of color commentators at his side throughout those years in Roanoke, including former William Fleming football coach Don Lee and former Roanoke College head basketball coach and athletic director Ed Green.
“I first met Dave Ross at Roanoke College and he immediately came across as a first class individual,” Green said in a recent interview. “One thing that stood out was how he really cared about the kids.”
“I became a color commentator on his broadcasts and was amazed at how much goes into a game. But, Dave doesn’t even have to look at a roster. He knows the players’ names. I’ll never forget when we did a VHSL state championship triple-header at the Vine Center at Liberty University about 15 years ago. The Cave Spring boys with J.J. Redick, Martinsville with Hall of Fame coach Troy Wells and the Altavista boys were playing that day, and by the third game I was worn out. Dave didn’t even break a sweat broadcasting three marquee games in a row.”
“Not many sports broadcasters last that long,” Green added. “But, Dave is a survivor. He’s a first-class professional that is highly respected and known for his tremendous voice.”
Obviously, Ross has seen a number of highlight performances in those 30-plus years. He points to covering games with Cave Spring twins Tiki and Ronde Barber, Redick, Chris Combs and cites a Salem-Brookville 6 overtime football game as another of his most memorable.
As his longevity in sports broadcasting has cemented his legacy, Ross has garnered numerous honors. He has been President of the Roanoke Valley Sports Club on two occasions and, he coordinates and emcees the annual Elks Club Valedictorian Night that honors the top high school academic students from 18 Roanoke and surrounding area high schools that is now in its 39th year.
Ross also agreed to have his name used by the Susan B. Komen For the Cure, Virginia, Blue Ridge for its annual breast cancer benefit football game, known now for eight years as the Dave Ross Biddy Bowl.
Character, hard work and preparation have been the standard for Dave Ross – and, a broadcasting voice / presence that is unmistakably powerful.