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HAMILTON — 50 years after beginning a journey through the Canadian Football League that included stops as a player, coach and executive, Bob O’Billovich has announced his retirement today.
“Upon my retirement, it’s hard to believe that 2013 marks my 50 year relationship with the Canadian Football League,” said O’Billovich, who most recently served as the Tiger-Cats Vice President of Football Operations. “Along the way, I’ve made some great friends – former coaches, key players and former colleagues – and I want to thank them for contributing to a memorable career.”
His CFL career began in 1963 when he signed with the Ottawa Rough Riders in 1963 and would go on to play five seasons and 69 games in the nation’s capital at defensive back.
O’Billovich later joined the coaching ranks in 1974 as a guest coach with the Rough Riders, eventually becoming an assistant in 1976, helping Ottawa with their last Grey Cup.
In 1982, O’Billovich was named head coach of the Toronto Argonauts, a position he would hold for eight seasons. During his stint with the Argos, he compiled the most wins in Argos history (89), two CFL Coach of the Year awards (1982, 1987), five East division titles and three Grey Cup appearances.
He joined the BC Lions in 1990 as vice president of football operations, general manager and head coach, remaining in that position until 1992. In 1993, Bob returned to the Argos to take over the roles of general manager and head coach. He surrendered head coaching duties at the end of the 1994 season to focus his energy on player recruitment before taking over as head coach again midway through the following season.
O’Billovich’s next career stop would see him land with the Saskatchewan Roughriders as their director of player personnel for two seasons prior to joining the Calgary Stampeders as assistant general manager and director of player personnel for three seasons, including their 2002 Grey Cup championship campaign.
Before joining the Black and Gold, O’Billovich served as the B.C. Lions’ Director of Player Personnel, a role he held from 2003 until his appointment as Ticats general manager in December of 2007. He was promoted to vice president of football operations in 2012.
“On behalf of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, the Canadian Football League and all Canadian football fans, we would like to thank Bob O’Billovich for his tremendous contribution to our organization and our great league. His impact on the Hamilton Tiger-Cats was dramatic and impactful during his five years with the team and we will always have a deep appreciation for what he has meant to the franchise. His football acumen, keen eye for talent and one of a kind personality has delivered a legacy that sooner than later should find him in the Canadian Football Hall of Fame. We wish Obie nothing but happiness and joy in his retirement after 50 years of dedication and commitment to the Canadian brand of football,” said Ticats President Scott Mitchell.
Bob was an outstanding athlete at the University of Montana and was the only varsity athlete to earn three varsity letters in football, basketball and baseball, serving as a captain in all three sports. He was voted the school’s Athlete of the Decade between the years 1960 and 1970 and was inducted into the Grizzly Hall of Fame in 1993.
Prior to beginning his CFL coaching career, O’Billovich spent five years as the head basketball coach at Carleton University (1971-73) and the University of Ottawa (1973-74).