CFHOF Profile: Bob O’Billovich

crop_20988550951Retirement for many professional players can be a very tough thing as there is little preparation for after football life.

There are those players that find a new path though and continue to be involved in the thing they love.

Transitioning to a coach or a GM is not always easy but there are those players who can do it and make a better impact on the game.

That is the category where Bob O’Billovich sits as he played five years for the Ottawa Rough Riders but never gained much traction.

After his time on the field he moved to the sidelines where he quickly formed a legendary career as one of the best coaches in the CFL.

After spending some time with the Rough Riders as a guest coach and assistant coach he went to Toronto to take over as the head coach.

This is where the legend of O’Billovich began as he joined a team that had been struggling for years to get back to the top of the league.

The 1982 Toronto Argonauts were a team on the brink of doing something great for the league’s oldest team.

The Argos were one of the first teams to win the Grey Cup and one of the first teams to form a Rugby Football team.

The history has always been there and the expectations remain to this day that they earn a spot in the Grey Cup and win the championship.

They did just that in 1952 but when O’Billovich became the head coach in 1982 that was the las time they had lifted the Cup.

The Argos were closing in on a 30-year drought in Toronto that included a four-year streak sitting at the bottom of the East division.

They were a team in need of something to spark them and take them out of the massive drought that they had been suffering through.bob_o_billovich.jpg.size.xxlarge.letterbox

Then came the 1982 team with a new head coach in O’Billovich who joined the team along with a new quarterback in Tennessee star Condredge Holloway.

The QB and coach came into Toronto and made sure that the team was never going to be the same team again.

They finished at the top of the east division in their first season together and moved on to the Grey Cup, their first Grey Cup appearance since the 1971 season.

They couldn’t get the job done that year but it was clear that the Argos were here to stay under O’Billovich.

The next year was another success finishing first in the division for the second year in a row and this time had a little extra motivation in the 71st Grey Cup.

After a tough game the Argos won their first Grey Cup in 30 years with a 18-17 game that immediately put O’Billovich in the lore of the Argos.

It was the defining moment for O’Billovich but it was not the end of his time influencing the league.

He went on to coach until 1988 for the Argos and continued to put the Argos near the top of the division and the league every year.

He moved on to BC where he served as a head coach and general manager until returning to Toronto in the mid-1990s as the coach and GM.

O’Billovich continued his career until 2012 when he officially retired as the General Manager of the Ti-Cats.

O’Billovich remains the winningest coach in the history of the Argos and although he never won another Grey Cup he is considered one of the best coaches in the CFL’s long history.

For breaking that drought and putting himself into the history books of one of the oldest teams in the CFL O’Billovich will take his place in the Canadian Football Hall of Fame.


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