Randy Ross spent 17 years at Alabama as an assistant coach, recruiting coordinator and member of the football support staff. Because of ties built during that time, he is now Arkansas’ assistant athletics director for football operations.

Ross served at UA under head coaches Gene Stallings, Mike DuBose and Mike Shula. He left for SMU in 2007. That job, too, came as a result of his time with the Crimson Tide.

“The head coach there was Phil Bennett, who I got to know well when he was at LSU, and when we played in the Cotton Bowl there the year before we practiced there (at SMU),” Ross said. “He asked me to come to SMU.”

Ross joined at the end of Bennett’s coaching run but was retained in his football operations role by new coach June Jones. When Jones was dismissed and Chad Morris was hired prior to the 2015 season, he also retained Ross.

That’s where the Alabama ties came into play. Morris had served as offensive coordinator at Clemson, where head coach Dabo Swinney and football staff members Woody McCorvey and Danny Pearman were former Alabama coaches from Ross’ days at the Capstone.

“There was a lot of connections when I left Clemson and went to SMU from Randy and his time at Alabama with Dabo and Woody and all those guys,” Morris said.

Those recommendations paved the way for Morris to retain Ross. When Morris was hired at Arkansas after last season, he brought Ross with him.

“Just the knowledge that he has, he’s been around it, I needed that,” Morris said. “I needed someone that was very experienced. He’s been my right-hand man all along.”

Ross is happy to be back in the SEC. Spending 11 years at SMU after being at Alabama for so long (and coaching quarterbacks at Vanderbilt before that) gave him an appreciation for the conference.

“It’s a cliché that’s used many times, but it’s true that it’s the best football conference in the country,” Ross said. “The people are so passionate about the football in this conference.

“You know, the one thing I found out being out of it for those 11 years was it’s not the same everywhere. I think when you’re in it you just assume it’s that way in every conference, but when you get out of it and look back at it, you totally realize.”

Ross’ duties at Arkansas include coordinating team travel, office management and administration, and game-day responsibilities.

“I do all the travel, I set up all the airline stuff, the food, the buses, the hotels,” he said. “I’ve got people that help me on the staff. Anything dealing with when we take trips, I handle all that.

“Whatever Chad Morris wants done, I kind of make sure it gets done. I handle just a zillion things a day. I don’t have a cookie-cutter job like a lot of people. Mine is just whatever the task is, get it done and get it done right.”

Ross will turn 65 on Saturday, when Alabama visits Arkansas. It will be a working birthday.

“Home games it’s basically getting the bus lined up to get us from the football complex over to the hotel and back,” he said. “On a road trip you’re always worried is that plane going to be there to pick you up, is the postgame snack going to be in the locker room for you at the end of the game, are the buses going to be there? Home games are pretty easy.”

A Boaz native, Ross plans to move back to Tuscaloosa with wife Ann – an Alabama graduate – when he retires.

“I grew up in Alabama,” he said. “That’s my home. They always say your roots go deep when you’re away.

“We love Tuscaloosa. Got lots of friends there, was there 17 years, so a huge portion of Ann’s and my life, our married life, was there. We do both love the state of Alabama and we’ll be back there.”

Reach Tommy Deas at tommy@tidesports.com or at 205-722-0224.