Legendary Canadian football coach Frank Clair has died

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Monday, April 4, 2005

Frank Clair, the Canadian Football League (CFL) coach and architect of the powerhouse Ottawa Rough Riders of the 1960s and 70s died Sunday at the age of 87 in Sarasota, Florida, United States.

Nicknamed “The Professor” for his skills at recognising talent, teaching the game, and ability to get the most from players, Clair first came to Canada to coach the Toronto Argonauts in 1950 and ended his first CFL year with a Grey Cup championship; repeating with the Argos in 1952. He left the Argonauts following a salary dispute and ended up in Ottawa in 1956 where he took on the daunting task of reviving the Rough Riders team which were poorly run and disorganised. He led the team to an incredible 14 consecutive seasons of playoff appearances and three Grey Cups.

He retired from coaching following the 1969 Grey Cup to take over the general manager position. At that time, Clair led the CFL in seasons coached (19), regular-season victories (147), playoff seasons (17), consecutive playoff seasons (14), playoff victories (22), Grey Cup appearances (six) and Grey Cup victories (five). His winning ways continued as GM when Ottawa won the 1973 and 1976 Grey Cups. Nevertheless, he was let go in 1978 and Ottawa has not won a Grey Cup since.

According to the Ottawa Sun, former sports editor Jane O’Hara described Clair as a no-nonsense, to-the-point, type of gentleman who was short on smiles, but always seen coaching his team wearing a snap-brim fedora and standing poker-faced and erect on the sidelines.

He was inducted into the CFL Hall of Fame in 1981 as a builder and the Ottawa stadium (Frank Clair Stadium at Lansdowne Park) was renamed in his honour in 1993.

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