Ron Lancaster

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Ron Lancaster
CFL Lancaster.JPG
Nickname(s) The Little General
Date of birth (1938-10-14)October 14, 1938
Place of birth Fairchance, Pennsylvania
Date of death September 18, 2008(2008-09-18) (aged 69)
Place of death Hamilton, Ontario
Career information
CFL status National
Position(s) QB
Height 5 ft 5 in (165 cm)
Weight 185 lb (84 kg)
College Wittenberg
Career history
As coach
19791980 Saskatchewan Roughriders
19911997 Edmonton Eskimos
19982003 Hamilton Tiger-Cats
2006 Hamilton Tiger-Cats
As player
19601962 Ottawa Rough Riders
19631978 Saskatchewan Roughriders
Career highlights and awards
CFL All-Star 1970, 1973, 1975, 1976
CFL West All-Star 1966, 1968, 1969, 1970, 1973, 1975, 1976
Awards 1970 - CFL's Most Outstanding Player Award
1976 - CFL's Most Outstanding Player Award
1977 - Tom Pate Memorial Award
1996 Annis Stukus Trophy
1998 Annis Stukus Trophy
2008 CFL Commissioner's Award
Career stats
  • Canadian Football Hall of Fame, 1982

Ronald "Ron" Lancaster (October 14, 1938 – September 18, 2008) was a professional Canadian football quarterback and later a head coach in the Canadian Football League (CFL). As the starting quarterback for the Saskatchewan Roughriders for 16 seasons, he led the franchise to their first Grey Cup championship in 1966 and is the franchise's all-time leader in passing yards, attempts, completions, touchdowns, and interceptions.[1] At the time of his retirement, he was the CFL's career leader in passing yards and still ranks sixth overall as of 2016. After his retirement as a player, he was also a head coach and general manager in the same league, winning two Grey Cups as a head coach and currently ranks fourth all-time with 142 regular season wins. He also spent time as a colour commentator for the CFL on CBC from 1981 to 1990. At the time of his death, he was the Senior Director of Football Operations of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. He is enshrined in the Canadian Football Hall of Fame (1982), the Canada's Sports Hall of Fame (1985) and the Wittenberg University Athletic Hall of Honour (1985).

Early life

Lancaster was born in the Pittsburgh area industrial town of Fairchance, Pennsylvania but moved to nearby Clairton, Pennsylvania as a young boy. At the time of his death, his mother still resided in Clairton.

Playing career

Lancaster was a talented quarterback by the time he graduated from Clairton High School, but due to his small 5′5″ (165 cm) stature,[2][3] he was ignored by most college scouts. He attended tiny Wittenberg University and again showed talent, leading them to a 25-8-1 record from 1956-59,[4] and two Ohio Athletic Conference championships in 1957 and 1958.[5] No NFL scouts showed any interest since he was considered too short to quarterback in the NFL.[6][7] (Although listed on most football cards at 5'10", or even 5'11",[8] Lancaster was much shorter)[9][7]

A scout for the Ottawa Rough Riders of the Canadian Football League, however, liked his on-field leadership, and Lancaster was signed by Ottawa.[10] During his rookie season with Ottawa in 1960, while he shared the quarterbacking duties with another future Hall of Famer, Russ Jackson, Ottawa won the Grey Cup. He spent two more years with Ottawa, but after a losing season in 1962 (6–7–1), Lancaster was traded to the Saskatchewan Roughriders. (He would have a losing record only one other time in his career, in his last season as a player.)[11]

It was with Saskatchewan that "The Little General" found his stride. In 16 seasons with Saskatchewan (1963–1978), he led the team into the playoffs 14 consecutive times, and made it to the CFL's Western Football Conference final 12 times. During that period, Saskatchewan represented the West in the Grey Cup five times (1966, 1967, 1969, 1972, and 1976); however, the Roughriders won the big game only once, in 1966, when they defeated the Ottawa Rough Riders 29–14.

Over Lancaster's 16 seasons with the Roughriders, they won 170 games with him at quarterback,[11] and had only one losing record, 4–11–1 in 1978, which was Lancaster's final season as a quarterback.

He was the first quarterback in CFL history to reach 50,000 career passing yards, was a finalist for the Schenley Award as most outstanding player in 1966, 1970 and 1976, (winning in 1970 and 1976), was an All-Canadian in 1970, 1973, 1975 and 1976 and a Western all-star in 1966, 1968, 1969, 1970, 1973, 1975 and 1976.[11]

He was so dominant as a quarterback, that on the day that he died, which was 30 years after he retired from playing, he was still ranked in the top 3 in career stats in a number of categories:

  • second in touchdown passes (333, surpassed only by Damon Allen) [Eight months after Lancaster's death, Anthony Calvillo moved past Lancaster into second place.]
  • third in pass completions (3,384)
  • third in pass attempts (6,233)
  • third in yards passing (50,535)

In November 2006, the Canadian sports network TSN listed Lancaster in 7th place on their Top 50 players of the CFL's modern era.

Career statistics

  Passing   Rushing
Year Team Att Comp Pct Yards TD Int Rating Att Yards Avg Long TD
1960 OTT 201 101 50.2 1,843 16 18 71.4 19 134 7.1 40 0
1961 OTT 100 49 49.0 966 9 8 79.8 17 122 7.2 23 1
1962 OTT 98 48 49.0 1,016 9 12 65.7 10 76 7.6 22 0
1963 SSK 226 106 46.9 1,727 11 19 54.2 34 139 4.1 15 2
1964 SSK 263 144 54.8 2,256 16 13 83.1 26 152 5.8 28 3
1965 SSK 305 160 52.5 2,586 17 26 64.2 33 84 2.5 20 3
1966 SSK 303 182 60.1 2,976 28 20 96.4 29 91 3.1 24 1
1967 SSK 330 169 51.2 2,809 16 24 66.1 29 131 4.5 25 2
1968 SSK 358 181 50.6 2,969 12 17 70.2 25 197 7.9 24 2
1969 SSK 354 188 53.1 3,104 25 28 73.5 22 115 5.2 48 3
1970 SSK 330 175 53.0 2,779 16 22 69.7 21 71 3.4 20 2
1971 SSK 375 192 51.2 2,759 16 23 64.1 5 0 0.0 2 0
1972 SSK 357 208 58.3 2,942 23 20 83.1 7 12 1.7 15 0
1973 SSK 464 263 56.7 3,767 22 27 74.7 8 17 2.1 13 1
1974 SSK 395 222 56.2 2,873 20 20 75.0 8 15 1.9 12 1
1975 SSK 441 239 54.2 3,545 23 27 72.6 14 11 0.8 10 0
1976 SSK 494 297 60.1 3,869 25 25 80.6 5 5 1.0 2 2
1977 SSK 449 255 56.8 3,072 14 20 69.8 14 48 3.4 9 3
1978 SSK 390 205 52.6 2,677 15 27 58.5 10 8 0.8 2 3
OTT totals 399 198 49.6 3,825 34 38 72.1 46 332 7.2 40 1
SSK totals 5,834 3,186 54.6 46,710 299 358 72.4 290 1,096 3.8 48 28
CFL totals 6,233 3,384 54.3 50,535 333 396 72.4 336 1,428 4.3 48 29

Coaching career

Lancaster was a player-coach in the 1977 and 1978 seasons, serving as Saskatchewan's offensive co-ordinator.

Lancaster became Saskatchewan's head coach immediately after his 1978 playing season but found "the glorious fifties and sixties were over, and he was the first Roughrider coach in sixteen years who did not have Ron Lancaster at quarterback."[12] The Green Riders finished 2–14 in consecutive seasons and Lancaster would not coach again for 11 years.

After serving as a colour commentator for The CFL on CBC from 1981 to 1990, he returned to the coaching ranks when he was named 12th head coach in Edmonton Eskimos history on February 4, 1991. He coached the Eskimos from 1991 to 1997, amassing an 83–42 regular season record and a Grey Cup win in 1993. He passed Hugh Campbell for first place on the Eskimos' list for coaching wins October 27, 1996.

Lancaster became the 17th head coach in Hamilton Tiger-Cat history on November 26, 1997. He coached the Tiger-Cats from 1998 to 2003. He took the team to the Grey Cup twice (1998, 1999) winning it in 1999. On July 10, 2006, Ron Lancaster was re-hired as the team's head coach on an interim basis after the firing of coach Greg Marshall.

Lancaster’s 142 career regular-season wins place him fourth on the CFL’s career regular season wins list.[13]

CFL coaching record

Team Year Regular Season Post Season
Won Lost Ties Win % Finish Won Lost Result
SSK 1979 2 14 0 .125 5th in West Conference Missed Playoffs
SSK 1980 2 14 0 .125 5th in West Conference Missed Playoffs
SSK Total 4 28 0 .125 0 West Division
Championships
- - 0 Grey Cups
EDM 1991 12 6 0 .667 1st in West Division 0 1 Lost in Division Finals
EDM 1992 10 8 0 .556 2nd in West Division 1 1 Lost in Division Finals
EDM 1993 12 6 0 .667 2nd in West Division 3 0 Won Grey Cup
EDM 1994 13 5 0 .722 2nd in West Division 0 1 Lost in Division Semi-Finals
EDM 1995 13 5 0 .722 2nd in North Division 1 1 Lost in Division Finals
EDM 1996 11 7 0 .611 2nd in West Division 2 1 Lost in Grey Cup
EDM 1997 12 6 0 .667 1st in West Division 0 1 Lost in Division Finals
EDM Total 83 43 0 .659 2 West Division
Championships
7 6 1 Grey Cup
HAM 1998 12 5 1 .694 1st in East Division 1 1 Lost in Grey Cup
HAM 1999 11 7 0 .611 2nd in East Division 3 0 Won Grey Cup
HAM 2000 9 9 0 .500 2nd in East Division 0 1 Lost in Division Semi-Finals
HAM 2001 11 7 0 .611 2nd in East Division 1 1 Lost in Division Finals
HAM 2002 7 11 0 .389 3rd in East Division Missed Playoffs
HAM 2003 1 17 0 .056 4th in East Division Missed Playoffs
HAM 2006 4 10 0 .286 4th in East Division Missed Playoffs
HAM Total 55 66 1 .455 1 East Division
Championship
4 3 1 Grey Cup
Total 142 137 1 .509 2 West Division
Championships

1 East Division
Championship
11 9 2 Grey Cups

Broadcasting career

CBC Television invited Lancaster to become a colour commentator on CFL broadcasts in 1980. He was part of a trio that included Don Wittman doing the play-by-play and former Argonaut head coach Leo Cahill doing colour commentary along with Lancaster. He was with the CBC from 1980 to 1991 and was a member of the CBC team at the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, Korea as the play-by-play broadcaster for basketball.

Illness and death

In 2004, Lancaster was diagnosed with bladder cancer, but appeared to have beaten it after treatment. In 2008, he was diagnosed with lung cancer and immediately started treatment. Lancaster was positive in his outlook, stating "Five years ago, I survived a battle with cancer, and now we have another battle on our hands. The goal is to get this taken care of and move forward just like I did five years ago. We will approach this the same way as then and I thank you all in advance for your kindness as I am on my path to recovery."[14] Six weeks later, on September 18, 2008, Lancaster died of a heart attack.[15][16]

He was survived by his wife, Bev and his three children Lana, Ron, and Bob, and four grandchildren.[17][18]

At the 2008 CFL season Awards ceremony on November 20, 2008, he was posthumously awarded the Commissioner's Award for outstanding contribution to the CFL by Commissioner Mark Cohon.[19]

See also

References

Notes
  1. ^ Saskatchewan Roughriders Media Guide
  2. ^ "The Little General: The Life and Times of Ron Lancaster". CBC-TV. Retrieved December 4, 2008. 
  3. ^ Henshaw, Jim (November 20, 2007). "The Legion of Decency: Rider Pride". Retrieved December 4, 2008. 
  4. ^ "Tributes pour in for 'Mr. CFL,' legendary Ron Lancaster | Toronto Star". thestar.com. Retrieved 2017-03-12. 
  5. ^ "Wittenberg" (PDF). Wittenberg. Retrieved 2017-03-12. 
  6. ^ Mulvoy, Mark. "DODGING THE DRAFT IN CANADA". SI.com. Retrieved 2017-03-12. 
  7. ^ a b "Ron Lancaster". NUVO. Retrieved 2017-03-12. 
  8. ^ "Ron Lancaster Gallery | The Trading Card Database". www.tradingcarddb.com. Retrieved 2017-03-12. 
  9. ^ "Retro Profile: Ron Lancaster and Alan Ford". CFL.ca. 2010-08-11. Retrieved 2017-03-12. 
  10. ^ "Life and Times: Ron Lancaster". CBC News. Retrieved September 21, 2008. 
  11. ^ a b c "Ron Lancaster". Front Office Team. Hamilton Tiger-Cats. Archived from the original on September 18, 2008. Retrieved September 18, 2008. 
  12. ^ Mullick, Rajeev. CFL Legends: Ron Lancaster. Retrieved January 17, 2006.
  13. ^ 2009 Canadian Football League Facts, Figures & Records, Canadian Football League Properties/Publications, Toronto, Ontario, ISBN 978-0-9739425-4-5, p.234
  14. ^ Masters, Mark (August 6, 2008). "Lancaster facing another fight with cancer". National Post. Canada. Archived from the original on August 7, 2008. Retrieved September 18, 2008. 
  15. ^ Maki, Allan (August 19, 2008). "Lancaster cast a long shadow in the CFL as a Hall of Fame player, coach, GM and broadcaster". Globe and Mail. Canada. Retrieved September 19, 2008. 
  16. ^ "CFL fans remember Ron Lancaster". CBC Sports. September 19, 2008. Retrieved September 25, 2008. 
  17. ^ "CFL icon Lancaster dies at 69". CBC Sports. September 18, 2008. Retrieved September 18, 2008. 
  18. ^ http://www.tsn.ca/cfl/story/?id=249878&lid=headline&lpos=topStory_main
  19. ^ "Als' Calvillo, Argonauts' Dorsey take CFL honours". Toronto Star. November 20, 2008. Retrieved November 21, 2008. 
Sources
  • CFL Facts, Figures and Records 2007.
  • Official WFC, EFC and CFL statistics 1960 to 1978.
  • The Canadian Encyclopedia
Preceded by
Wally Buono
Wally Buono
Grey Cup winning Head Coach
87th Grey Cup, 1999
81st Grey Cup, 1993
Succeeded by
Steve Buratto
Dave Ritchie
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