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An interview with Northwestern PA announcer Gary Ross

The voice behind “Justin Jackson the ball carrier!” and much more has plenty of memories to share.

Andrew Simpson

I grew up going to Northwestern football and basketball games with my father, and loved the whole experience. One of my favorite parts, perhaps surprisingly, was the announcer. I just loved all of the energy he had, and also the way he helped eight-year-old Jacob understand what had just happened.

So you can imagine my confusion when after a little league game, I thought I heard the announcer’s voice. I turned to my dad and said “Someone here sounds like the guy from the Northwestern games!” My father replied: “No. Someone here IS the guy from the Northwestern games.” About 10 feet away from me was Gary Ross, the stadium PA announcer for Northwestern football and men’s basketball.

I grew up with his son, but never talked to him about his job. Now, with football season getting going, we here at Inside NU decided to try and get a peek behind the curtain at one of the more unheralded (but important and impressive) parts of the NU gameday experience:

INU: How long have you been the PA announcer for NU?

GR: It’s my 25th year overall. This upcoming season will be my thirteenth season doing football, and my eighteenth doing men’s basketball. Before that, I had done women’s basketball for seven seasons.

INU: How did you get your start in announcing?

GR: I have a background in TV and radio. I used to be a TV news reporter, and was an anchor and a reporter for a radio station. I had a friend in the NU athletics department in the 90s, and I always thought being a PA announcer was a cool job. I asked my friend if they needed someone, and he said they needed people for WBB and Volleyball. I did a few games for each, and ended up as the permanent PA for WBB.

INU: What was your relation to NU before the job?

GR: My connection to NU dates all the way back to 1983, when I was a Medill Cherub. Also, I’m an alum. I graduated from Medill in 1988.

INU: What’s your favorite part of the job?

A: I love being part of all of the excitement. Helping to make the atmosphere and the fan experience exciting and enjoyable for people, especially being able to do it at my Alma Mater, is a joy and an honor.

INU: In your time at Northwestern, what was your favorite moment?

GR: There are a lot of moments that stand out. The pass from Taphorn to Pardon against Michigan will always be a special one.

INU: How about a favorite name or phrase to say?

GR: The phrase “Justin Jackson the ball carrier” was certainly fun.

INU: How did you feel about the JJTBC echo in the student section?

GR: I loved it. Thought it was great. If there’s anything I can do to contribute to a fun atmosphere in the stadium....I love when that kind of thing happens.

INU: Have you thought about reaching out to the Chargers about announcing for Justin?

GR: *Laughs* No, I haven’t. But it’s exciting to see how well he’s doing.

INU: What’s changed about NU athletics in your time here?

GR: I’m going to start with what hasn’t changed. We are a program that does things the right way. It’s fun being a fan of my alma mater, but also supporting a program that carries itself with such class and commitment to excellence.

In terms of ways it has changed, the new Welsh-Ryan Arena is fantastic. Crowds at Ryan Field are into the game, perhaps more than they had been. I think it is partly due to social media and the internet, allowing fans to be more knowledgeable and get into it. We have a much more engaged fanbase.

INU: How did you find out that this was something that you wanted to do for over two decades?

GR: I have just enjoyed it so much. Even as a kid, I always loved listening to the PA announcer, finding where he was sitting. I always wanted to be one, and will continue to do it as long as I can.

INU: I went to high school with your son. He’s a great guy, but he goes to Purdue. Would you like to use this platform to shame him?

AGR *Laughs* No. He is at a fellow Big Ten institution, and I’m proud of that. He is studying airline management and operations. They have a phenomenal aviation program.

INU: Does him being there create any rivalry in the family?

A: It’s just like any other sports rivalry. So many families are a house divided for sports. He will always have a soft spot for NU, he grew up liking them, but now he’s a Purdue fan, as he should be.

This interview has been edited and condensed, and some questions and answers have been paraphrased, for clarity.