Celebrating an Athletics Pioneer

Bill Ross' legacy lives on at UMKC
Bill Ross
Bill Ross

As one of the founders of the athletics program, Bill Ross (1935-2019) has left a lasting legacy at UMKC. He was the first coach for men’s basketball when the team formed in 1969; the first women’s basketball coach, launching the team in 1980; and was head golf coach from 1972 through 2006. He also served as the first Sports Information Director at UMKC, as an assistant athletics director and also taught physical education as an assistant professor.

He was inducted into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame in 2007, where he is cited for following up a successful tenure as a high school basketball coach by becoming “instrumental in the development and implementation of the Intercollegiate Athletics program at UMKC,” as well as having “a significant impact in UMKC’s transition from NAIA to NCAA Division I athletics in 1987.”


"It was more a labor of love than anything," -Ross said. "I'd say because of the longevity I held onto in that sport, it has to rank at the top for me."


After his 2003 retirement, Ross and his wife, Pat, split their time between Hawaii and Kansas City. Spring and the return of golfing weather was always a harbinger of the Ross’ return to Kansas City, where Bill would schedule plenty of rounds with former student-athletes.

Upon his induction into the UMKC Athletics Hall of Fame in 2010, Ross said he held the golf program closest to his heart. 

"It was more a labor of love than anything," Ross said. "I'd say because of the longevity I held onto in that sport, it has to rank at the top for me."

Brandon Martin, Ph.D., director of athletics, said Ross was “an integral member of UMKC Athletics.”

“We are saddened to learn of the passing of legendary coach Bill Ross. His impact is everlasting as a founding member of our department, and we are thankful for the time he spent building leaders at UMKC.”

J.W. VanDenBorn, head men’s golf coach at UMKC, played for Ross and later served as an assistant coach for him before taking the head coaching position when Ross retired.

“We are deeply saddened to lose our coach, mentor and friend,” VanDenBorn said. “He dedicated much of his life to UMKC Athletics and is largely responsible for what we all enjoy within the athletic department today. Everyone associated with UMKC Athletics is deeply indebted to him for his innumerable contributions. There will never be another Bill Ross.”

Published: Feb 28, 2019

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