‘Organizations are being run by people who have no experience at all’: CFL legend Wally Buono believes league needs more veteran consultants

Courtesy: AP Photo/Troy Fleece,CP

Football is a young man’s game, but the winningest coach in CFL history believes the league could use a little more veteran wisdom.

Former B.C. Lions head coach and general manager Wally Buono took a walk down memory lane on the Moj on Sports podcast hosted by Lions’ play-by-play man Bob Marjanovich, talking through his whole career, including his temporary role as an advisor during the Edmonton Elks’ head coach and general manager search this offseason.

Teased about a possible comeback, the 72-year-old denied a desire to return to football in a full-time capacity. However, Buono left the door open for more consulting work, while critiquing the CFL for not keeping its living legends closer to the game.

“Those are the kind of things I do enjoy doing. I would [continue to] do them because I believe — and I’m going to say this nicely — the CFL should have people on its payroll that have that tremendous background, that tremendous history in whatever, whether it’s helping the football ops, whether it’s helping the business ops,” Buono said, clearly biting his tongue.

“There’s times organizations are being run by people who have no experience at all, so if they have assets like that, [use them] a lot of leagues do that. The NFL does that when they bring in all these special consultants and all that stuff. I think it’s a viable way to help pass the knowledge on to people.”

With nearly five decades of experience as a player, coach, and executive in the CFL, few have more knowledge to pass on than Buono. The Elks leaned on his resume after cleaning house last season, but the wisdom of the old guard has not been so widely heeded during the league’s current period of turmoil. Decision-makers quick to say the league must get with the times have ignored those who have kept the CFL stable and growing for generations.

Buono points to B.C. Lions president Rick LeLacheur and his relationship with new owner Amar Doman as an example of how experience and bold new ideas can complement each other. He hopes others will follow that example and not in just a purely official capacity. Buono’s phone line is available to anyone around the CFL seeking advice, regardless of their role.

“I know a lot of people throughout the league and whether it’s a GM, a head coach, a coach, or a player, they know they can call me and we can have a talk. Whatever I tell them, they can use it the way they like,” he said, noting he wouldn’t have gotten where he did in his career had he not taken advantage of similar offers.

“I’m willing to help people, whether it’s a coaching situation, whether it’s a personal situation — people have done it for me. I remember when I used to call Cal Murphy or Hugh Campbell or Roy Shivers and they were with other teams, it wasn’t like they were my boss. We’d sit down and talk, if I had something that was on my chest, they’d help me with it.”

Those conversations, held in the strictest confidence, laid the foundation for a Hall of Fame career and the knowledge Buono gleaned is available to any who still value it.