Ron Lancaster

Last updated

Ron Lancaster
CFL Lancaster.JPG
Nickname(s)The Little General
Born:(1938-10-14)October 14, 1938
Fairchance, Pennsylvania
Died:September 18, 2008(2008-09-18) (aged 69)
Hamilton, Ontario
Career information
CFL status National
Position(s) QB
Height5 ft 10 in (178 cm)
Weight185 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

Ronald Lancaster (October 14, 1938 – September 18, 2008) was an American-Canadian professional football player and coach in the Canadian Football League (CFL). As the starting quarterback for the Saskatchewan Roughriders for 16 seasons, he led the team to its 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 served as a head coach and general manager in the CFL; he led his teams to two Grey Cups and currently ranks fourth all-time with 142 regular season wins. He was also a colour commentator on 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 a member of the Canadian Football Hall of Fame (1982), Canada's Sports Hall of Fame (1985) and the Wittenberg University Athletic Hall of Honour (1985).

Contents

Early life

Lancaster was born in the Pittsburgh area industrial town of Fairchance, Pennsylvania and 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 because he was 5′5″ (165 cm), [2] [3] he was ignored by most college scouts. He attended tiny Wittenberg University and led its team to a 25-8-1 record between 1956 and 1959, [4] and two Ohio Athletic Conference championships in 1957 and 1958.

By the time he graduated from Wittenberg he had grown to 5’10". His college coach had a friend with the Ottawa Rough Riders in the Canadian Football League (CFL), and Lancaster signed with them. During his rookie season in 1960, Lancaster shared the quarterbacking duties with another future Hall of Famer, Russ Jackson, and also played defensive back. The Ottawa Rough Riders won the Grey Cup that season.

In 1963 Lancaster's playing rights were sold to the Saskatchewan Roughriders for $500 with the stipulation that if Saskatchewan ever wanted to trade him, Ottawa would have the first right of refusal.

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

In Lancaster's career with the Saskatchewan Roughriders, he won 170 games as quarterback, [5] and had only one losing record, 4–11–1 in 1978, his last season as a player.

He was the first quarterback in CFL history to reach 50,000 career passing yards, won the Schenley Award as most outstanding player 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. [5]

In November 2006, the Canadian sports network TSN ranked Lancaster seventh on its list of Top 50 Players of the CFL's modern era.

At the time of his death, thirty years after his retirement as a player, he was still ranked in the top three in career statistics in a number of categories:

Career statistics

 Passing Rushing
YearTeamAttCompPctYardsTDIntRatingAttYardsAvgLongTD
1960 OTT 20110150.21,843161871.4191347.1400
1961 OTT 1004949.09669879.8171227.2231
1962 OTT 984849.01,01691265.710767.6220
1963 SSK 22610646.91,727111954.2341394.1152
1964 SSK 26314454.82,256161383.1261525.8283
1965 SSK 30516052.52,586172664.233842.5203
1966 SSK 30318260.12,976282096.429913.1241
1967 SSK 33016951.22,809162466.1291314.5252
1968 SSK 35818150.62,969121770.2251977.9242
1969 SSK 35418853.13,104252873.5221155.2483
1970 SSK 33017553.02,779162269.721713.4202
1971 SSK 37519251.22,759162364.1500.020
1972 SSK 35720858.32,942232083.17121.7150
1973 SSK 46426356.73,767222774.78172.1131
1974 SSK 39522256.22,873202075.08151.9121
1975 SSK 44123954.23,545232772.614110.8100
1976 SSK 49429760.13,869252580.6551.022
1977 SSK 44925556.83,072142069.814483.493
1978 SSK 39020552.62,677152758.51080.823
OTT totals39919849.63,825343872.1463327.2401
SSK totals5,8343,18654.646,71029935872.42901,0963.84828
CFL totals6,2333,38454.350,53533339672.43361,4284.34829

Coaching career

Lancaster was a player-coach of the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the 1977 and 1978 seasons and also served as Saskatchewan's offensive co-ordinator.

He became Saskatchewan's head coach in 1979 but found, as one writer put it, that "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." [6] The Roughriders finished 2–14 in 1979 and 2-14 in 1980. Lancaster would not coach again for eleven years.

After serving as a colour commentator for The CFL on CBC from 1981 to 1990, he became head coach of the Edmonton Eskimos on February 4, 1991. From 1991 to 1997, he had a record of 83–42 in the regular season and a Grey Cup win in 1993. He passed Hugh Campbell's team record for wins on October 27, 1996.

Lancaster signed on to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats as head coach on November 26, 1997. Between 1998 and 2003, he took the team to the Grey Cup twice (1998 and 1999), winning it in 1999. On July 10, 2006, Lancaster was re-hired as the team's head coach on an interim basis after the firing of Greg Marshall.

At the time of his death, Lancaster’s 142 career regular-season wins placed him fourth on the CFL’s career regular season wins list. [7]

CFL coaching record

TeamYearRegular SeasonPost Season
WonLostTiesWin %FinishWonLostResult
SSK 1979 2140.1255th in West ConferenceMissed Playoffs
SSK 1980 2140.1255th in West ConferenceMissed Playoffs
SSK Total4280.1250 West Division
Championships
--0 Grey Cups
EDM 1991 1260.6671st in West Division01Lost in Division Finals
EDM 1992 1080.5562nd in West Division11Lost in Division Finals
EDM 1993 1260.6672nd in West Division30Won Grey Cup
EDM 1994 1350.7222nd in West Division01Lost in Division Semi-Finals
EDM 1995 1350.7222nd in North Division11Lost in Division Finals
EDM 1996 1170.6112nd in West Division21Lost in Grey Cup
EDM 1997 1260.6671st in West Division01Lost in Division Finals
EDM Total83430.6592 West Division
Championships
761 Grey Cup
HAM 1998 1251.6941st in East Division11Lost in Grey Cup
HAM 1999 1170.6112nd in East Division30Won Grey Cup
HAM 2000 990.5002nd in East Division01Lost in Division Semi-Finals
HAM 2001 1170.6112nd in East Division11Lost in Division Finals
HAM 2002 7110.3893rd in East DivisionMissed Playoffs
HAM 2003 1170.0564th in East DivisionMissed Playoffs
HAM 2006 4100.2864th in East DivisionMissed Playoffs
HAM Total55661.4551 East Division
Championship
531 Grey Cup
Total1421371.5092 West Division
Championships

1 East Division
Championship
1292 Grey Cups

Broadcasting career

CBC Television signed Lancaster as 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 (Cahill left after the 1985 season). He was with the CBC from 1981 to 1990 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, saying, "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." [8] Six weeks later, on September 18, 2008, Lancaster died of a heart attack. [9] [10] He was survived by his wife, Bev, his three children Lana, Ron, and Bob, and four grandchildren. [11] [12]

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. [13]

See also

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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 March 12, 2017.
  5. 1 2 "Ron Lancaster". Front Office Team. Hamilton Tiger-Cats. Archived from the original on September 18, 2008. Retrieved September 18, 2008.
  6. Mullick, Rajeev. CFL Legends: Ron Lancaster. Retrieved January 17, 2006.
  7. 2009 Canadian Football League Facts, Figures & Records, Canadian Football League Properties/Publications, Toronto, Ontario, ISBN   978-0-9739425-4-5, p.234
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. "CFL fans remember Ron Lancaster". CBC Sports. September 19, 2008. Retrieved September 25, 2008.
  11. "CFL icon Lancaster dies at 69". CBC Sports. September 18, 2008. Retrieved September 18, 2008.
  12. https://www.tsn.ca/cfl/story/?id=249878&lid=headline&lpos=topStory_main
  13. "Als' Calvillo, Argonauts' Dorsey take CFL honours". Toronto Star. November 20, 2008. Retrieved November 21, 2008.
Sources
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