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. 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).
|Nickname(s)||The Little General|
|Born:||October 14, 1938|
|Died:||September 18, 2008 69) (aged|
|Height||5 ft 10 in (178 cm)|
|Weight||185 lb (84 kg)|
|1960–1962||Ottawa Rough Riders|
|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
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.
Lancaster was a talented quarterback by the time he graduated from Clairton High School, but because he was 5′5″ (165 cm), 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, 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.
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.
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:
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." 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.
CFL coaching record
|Team||Year||Regular Season||Post Season|
|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|
|-||-||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|
|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|
|5||3||1 Grey Cup|
|Total||142||137||1||.509||2 West Division|
1 East Division
|12||9||2 Grey Cups|
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." Six weeks later, on September 18, 2008, Lancaster died of a heart attack. He was survived by his wife, Bev, his three children Lana, Ron, and Bob, and four grandchildren.
- Saskatchewan Roughriders Media Guide
- "The Little General: The Life and Times of Ron Lancaster". CBC-TV. Retrieved December 4, 2008.
- Henshaw, Jim (November 20, 2007). "The Legion of Decency: Rider Pride". Retrieved December 4, 2008.
- "Tributes pour in for 'Mr. CFL,' legendary Ron Lancaster | Toronto Star". thestar.com. Retrieved March 12, 2017.
- "Ron Lancaster". Front Office Team. Hamilton Tiger-Cats. Archived from the original on September 18, 2008. Retrieved September 18, 2008.
- Mullick, Rajeev. CFL Legends: Ron Lancaster. Retrieved January 17, 2006.
- 2009 Canadian Football League Facts, Figures & Records, Canadian Football League Properties/Publications, Toronto, Ontario, ISBN 978-0-9739425-4-5, p.234
- 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.
- 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.
- "CFL fans remember Ron Lancaster". CBC Sports. September 19, 2008. Retrieved September 25, 2008.
- "CFL icon Lancaster dies at 69". CBC Sports. September 18, 2008. Retrieved September 18, 2008.
- "Als' Calvillo, Argonauts' Dorsey take CFL honours". Toronto Star. November 20, 2008. Retrieved November 21, 2008.
- CFL Facts, Figures and Records 2007.
- Official WFC, EFC and CFL statistics 1960 to 1978.
- "Ronald Lancaster". The Canadian Encyclopedia
| Grey Cup winning Head Coach
87th Grey Cup, 1999
81st Grey Cup, 1993