Former Argos head coach Leo Cahill passes away at age 89

Leo Cahill, the colourful former head coach/GM of the Toronto Argonauts, died Friday. He was 89.

A source confirmed Cahill passed away in hospital in Atlanta.

Cahill, a native of Utica, Ill., attended the University of Illinois on a football scholarship and even appeared in the 1947 Rose Bowl game.

He began his pro coaching career in the 1960s as an assistant with the Montreal Alouettes before heading to Toronto to join the Toronto Rifles of the Continental Football League.

He joined the Argos as head coach in 1967 and with the likes of Joe Theismann at quarterback, Jim Stillwagon on the defensive line and Leon McQuay at running back, Toronto reached the ’71 Grey Cup.

“Leo Cahill was not only one of the most colourful coaches our game has seen, but he was also a tireless supporter of Canadian Football. Leo had a knack for identifying players, a talent for getting the best out of them on the field and a passion for promoting the game he loved. The Argos and Toronto fans will remain forever grateful for Leo’s lasting contributions to our organization and Canadian football as a whole. On behalf of the entire organization, past and present players and staff, and our fans, we extend our deepest sympathies and condolences to Leo’s friends and family,” the Argos said in a statement.

But a late McQuay fumble on a wet day at Empire Stadium allowed the Calgary Stampeders to hang on for a 14-11 win.

Unfortunately for Cahill, he was fired the following season.

In 1987, Toronto made its second Grey Cup appearance under Cahill, who was then the club’s general manager. This time, the Edmonton Eskimos prevailed 38-36 at B.C. Place Stadium.

Cahill earned the nickname Leo The Lip for his often colourful demeanour.

“In the long and colourful history of the Canadian Football League, few have left as lasting an impression, or added as much colour, as Leo Cahill. He was truly one of a kind. As a coach and general manager, “Leo the Lip”, as he was sometimes called by the media, had a flair for promoting the game that helped the CFL, and especially the Toronto Argonauts, rise to new heights. His shoot-from-the-hip style kept fans coming back for more. His showmanship, however, may have led some to overlook his deep knowledge of the game. He had a keen eye for football talent and an ability to knit diverse and sometimes equally flamboyant personalities into a winning team. Starting in the CFL as an assistant coach in Montreal, he was the Argos’ head coach from 1967 to 1972, and again from 1977 to 1978. He led a star-studded Argo team full of unforgettable characters to a Grey Cup berth in 1971, and was the team’s General Manager when they appeared in the Grey Cup in 1987. It’s fitting that those two Grey Cups are among the most memorable ever played. Mr. Cahill’s association with the CFL spanned many more years, as he worked as a colour commentator with the Canadian Football Network and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, as a scout, and as a goodwill ambassador with the Argos. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, his former players and his many friends and fans,” CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie said in a statement.

But for all his bravado, Cahill was also one of the best recruiters in CFL history, bringing the likes of Theismann, Stillwagon, McQuay, Canadian defensive lineman Jim Corrigal and receiver Mel Profit to the Argos.

Since ’04, he served as the Argos’ goodwill ambassador.