Wally Buono: David Braley plans to own B.C. Lions for entire 2018 season


Wally Buono was asked to repeat his answer a second time, just so it was crystal clear.

While discussing his own future with the B.C. Lions following a miserable campaign that started with sky-high expectations, the legendary head coach and general manager offered a surprising and unsolicited detail – David Braley plans to continue owning the team for the entirety of next season.

“I’ll say it again,” Buono told reporters Monday at the Lions’ suburban practice facility as players cleaned out their lockers. “He’s going to own the club for 2018.”

The definitive news regarding Braley, who bought the bankrupt franchise in 1996, came as a surprise.

It’s no secret the 76-year-old has been looking to sell, even saying as much in an interview posted on the Lions’ website back in the spring.

The “for sale” sign remains in the window, but as it stands Braley will be in control until at least the end of next season for a club that has seen a sharp decline in attendance over the last few years.

“David’s very candid about the fact he will the owner in 2018,” said Buono. “That’s something that needs to be definite. We need to have definite direction.

“It applies with David, with the business part of the organization and the football part of the organization.”

Buono added his status will also be determined in the near future.

“We need to address that very quickly,” said the 67-year-old, who has been with the B.C. since 2003. “I need to sit down with the coaches to just give them some clarity on where we’re at.

“Then the process will start with David.”

The CFL’s all-time leader in coaching wins, Buono returned to the sidelines in 2016 at Braley’s request, leading the Lions to a 12-6 record and a playoff victory.

But things fell apart this season in a 7-11 campaign that saw B.C. miss the playoffs for the first time since 1996.

Buono said Monday he isn’t sure how things will play out, even if Braley does want him back in some capacity.

“I am conflicted, and I should be.”

Picked by many to contend at the top of the CFL’s West Division thanks in large part to what looked to be an explosive offence, the Lions instead stumbled badly following a 5-2 start.

B.C. won just two of its final 11 games as inconsistent play, crucial mistakes and a number of sub-par performances in all three phases crippled a talent-laden squad that couldn’t get out of its own way.

“I want to say it’s because we didn’t work hard enough or I want to say it’s because we didn’t have a good group of guys in the locker-room,” said quarterback Jonathon Jennings. “But all those things are not true. We had a good group of guys, I thought we had a good team, had the talent.

“It just didn’t come around for us.”

Coming off a breakout 2016 where he threw for more than 5,000 yards, Jennings hurt his throwing shoulder in July, and was forced to come back quicker than he wanted after backup Travis Lulay suffered a rib injury in August.

Jennings struggled from there and was replaced again by Lulay as the starter in September, but the veteran lasted just two plays before blowing out his right knee.

That forced Jennings back under centre, however the 25-year-old wasn’t able to rally a team that lost five straight games down the stretch to tumble out of the playoff picture.

“It’s been extremely difficult – one of the most trying things I’ve been through in my life,” said Jennings, who threw a CFL-high 19 interceptions. “I’ve never played to a standard like that. It was disappointing for myself, but it’s pure motivation. I know that it’s part of my growth.

“It’s something that’s going to encourage me and motivate me to be even better going forward.”

One of the few bright spots was linebacker Solomon Elimimian, who broke his own record for tackles in a season, and was again the pulse of the defence.

“We had high hopes, high expectations,” said Elimimian. “Things just didn’t come together.”

Asked how he would remember 2017, wide receiver Bryan Burnham, who finished fourth in the league with 1,202 yards, summed up a feeling that was almost palpable as players shook hands and shook their heads before parting ways for the winter.

“The season that could have been, that should have been,” said Burnham. “But wasn’t.”



12 Comments on Wally Buono: David Braley plans to own B.C. Lions for entire 2018 season

  1. I’m happy with that. The only change I want to see is the “play selection” and I’ll leave it at that.

  2. Lancaster/Reed // November 6, 2017 at 7:17 pm //

    I respect braley for not only saving the lions, but he also stepped up and saved the argos when the cfl desperately needed to find a buyer for that franchise.

  3. David Braley should be given the keys to the city of Vancouver. Without him there would be no Lions football team. I’d like to see Wally move to President and bring in a flotilla of young executive type help at GM, Head Coach, etc. I think the team became a little too complacent this year and when Lulay went down before Jennings was fully recovered there was insufficient renewable energy in the locker room. The talent is there — trade with the Als — send them Williams and get back Jovan our offensive tackle — that would be a good start… maybe consider moving Lulay into the coaching ranks (QB coach) and go after Franklin or Collaros (on a reduced pay package) — maybe see if the ex-Argo head coach would come back as OC…

  4. greenonions // November 6, 2017 at 10:14 pm //

    If Wally is back he’ll stay with Jennings. But there are a lot of QB’s on the market this year so we’ll see. Lulay still wants to play. I’m not high on Khari Jones or Mark Washington but they likely are here if Buono is HC. He bumped up Jones to OC again after Tedford left & Wally has said he would like to see Washington as HC if he leaves – shades of Benevides. They won’t get far if the Lions don’t fix the problems on both sides of the line.

  5. Braley should sell the the Lions. He is too old, out of date and absent.
    He almost destroyed the Argos now he is doing the same thing in BC.

  6. AFootballGuy // November 7, 2017 at 11:08 am //

    This league and its fans owe David Braley a lot of respect and appreciation for taking on daunting propositions twice to keep teams alive. So, Mr Braley, thanks!

    But, it’s no secret that he isn’t a big spender, and deserves the “caretaker” name a lot more than Bob Young does in Hamilton. In the current climate of CFL attendance, Braley is simply the wrong person to own a team in an increasingly indifferent big “hip” city. Significant and modernized marketing is required to bring Lions football back into the Vancouver conversation.

    So, I hope this decision changes before the 2018 season starts. Every year of the status quo costs a few more fans, and the BC organization can’t afford too many more years without turning into another Toronto. David Braley is a good guy, but the wrong guy.

  7. Make no mistake, Braley saved football in BC and quite possibly the CFL. But, he has been in caretaker mode with this franchise for three years and the organization is in dire straits. He is causing as much damage by hanging on in BC as he caused by hanging on in Toronto.

    There is no question that either alternative ownership groups (Aquilini/Sidoo or Keith/Woodall) have the capacity and capability to rejuvenate the franchise and re-energize and renew the fan base. Braley’s dogged determination to hold on to this team when it is clearly not in the team’s or the community’s interests is frustrating.

    This news confirms that we have made the right decision not to renew our season tickets after 8 years. Nothing is going to get better and the value proposition of being a Lions ticket holder is dismal.

  8. TouchDownBC // November 7, 2017 at 3:17 pm //

    Bouno needs to resign and hire a new GM/HC/OC/DC…for starters

  9. Tiger Ted // November 7, 2017 at 8:42 pm //

    Trade ya Kent Austin for Wally B.

    • Ha! I was thinking the same thing! And send the 1.5 m dollar man Collaros for Jennings as well!

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