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HISTORY >> CFL Legends >> Leo Cahill

By CRAIG WALLACE

In the long and glorious history of the Toronto Argonauts there have been many successful head coaches. Names like Lew Hayman, Ted Morris, Frank Clair, Bob O'Billovich, and Don Mathews all come to mind when the finest all time Argo leaders are discussed. And while those coaches were truly outstanding, perhaps the most legendary of all...was Leo Cahill. No person before or since has ever done more to promote professional football in Toronto and indeed all of Canada.

Leo Cahill was born in Utica, Illinois and from his earliest days as a youth, was captivated by football. After a superb high school career, Leo attended the University of Illinois on a football scholarship, appearing in the 1947 Rose Bowl game. After college, Leo did a stint in the Army, seeing actual combat in Korea. After being honorably discharged from the service, he was hired by his former college mentor, Ray Eliot to assist with the offensive line at the University of Illinois. From there Leo went on to successful stints at Lewis College, the University of South Carolina, and the University of Toledo.

Leo Cahill In 1960, the Montreal Alouettes hired Perry Moss as their new head coach. Moss had been the quarterback at the University of Illinois when Leo had played there and the two had stayed in touch. Perry had always admired Leo's football knowledge and soon hired him as a member of his staff. Leo quickly grasped the differences of the Canadian game and became a well- respected professional football coach. His tenure in Montreal abruptly ended though in 1964 when Leo resigned as a result of a personality clash between himself and the Alouettes' newly appointed coach, Jim Trimble. 1965 marked Leo's first appearance on the Toronto sports scene when the Toronto Rifles of the semi-professional Continental Football League, hired Leo as head coach and general manager. Leo ran the entire operation of the Rifles and did a superb job in doing so. In 1965 they went to the Continental League's championship game (losing 24-7 to Charleston) and then made the playoffs in 1966. In both of those years Leo developed a strong rapport with the fans, the media and most of all, his players.

In the spring of 1967, the Toronto Argonauts approached Leo as he was preparing for the upcoming Continental League season. The Argos were in a terrible state of affairs, having not made the playoffs since 1961 and become the laughing stock of the Canadian Football League. Their last Grey Cup appearance had been a victory way back in 1952. Their head coach Bob Shaw, suddenly resigned...leaving the Argos rudderless with less then 3 months to go before the start of the season. Leo seemed to be the natural choice; he knew Canadian football and was well known and respected in the Toronto area due to his work with the Rifles. The Argos wasted little time offering the job to Leo who quickly accepted. He put together a quality coaching staff; adding Steve Sucic who had coached with the team in the early 1960's and kept Gord Akerman and Frank "Blackie Johnston" from Bob Shaw's staff.

The team Leo took over in 1967 had a small core of talented players. On offense he had a couple of solid lineman in Danny Nykoluk, and Bill Frank, there was a young quarterback named Wally Gabler who looked as if he had potential and a solid group of receivers made up of Canadians Bobby Taylor and Al Irwin. He also inherited a superb American tight-end in Mel Profit. On defense he had the Eastern Conference top rookie of 1966 in tackle Mike Wadsworth, two solid young linebackers in Peter Martin and Dick Aldridge; perhaps the best free safety in football in Marv Luster and Jim Rountree, a great veteran cornerback. Leo quickly traded for two more quality veteran defensive backs picking up Ed Learn from Montreal, and Dick (Tricky Dick) Thornton from Winnipeg.

Thornton recalls that moment: "When Leo got the Argo job, I knew I was destined for the big city of Toronto. There were major changes going on in the Blue Bomber organization and Leo had tried several times earlier to trade for me when he was with Montreal. He also loved versatile players and I provided that proven characteristic."

In Leo's first meetings with the team...he outlined two goals for 1967; to improve their regular season record and also to make the playoffs. The team responded to that challenge with enthusiasm, reaching both...finishing with a record of 5-8-1 (including the most lopsided win in Argo history...a 53-0 crushing of Winnipeg) and making the playoffs for the first time in six years. They didn't last long in the post season, dropping a 38-22 decision to the powerful Russ Jackson-led, Ottawa Rough Riders. But they did put a scare into Ottawa that game, falling behind 20-0 in the second quarter only to come roaring back and close the gap to 20-15 and 27-22. The Rough Riders won due to their superior talent but the Argos fought and scrapped the entire sixty minutes and showed the football world that no team coached by Leo Cahill would ever give up.

In 1968 Leo made a big change in his coaching staff. Steve Sucic resigned and Leo asked veteran defensive back Jim Rountree to replace him. Leo also asked trainer Mert Profit, to work with a young running back that had been plagued by a bad knee, by the name of Bill Symons. Leo could see Symons was loaded with talent if only his knee could be stabilized. Symons responded to the trainer's rehabilitation program by turning in a monstrous season...rushing for 1107 yards, averaging almost 7 yards per carry and being named CFL Most Valuable Player. Wally Gabler led the Eastern conference in passing, Bobby Taylor led the East in receiving, Mel Profit became the best tight-end in the East and the defense designed by Cahill and Rountree developed into one of the most aggressive and at times - violent units in pro football. The Toronto defense made their opponents pay a fearful price for attempting to score. Led by all of these factors, Toronto finished with their first winning season in seven years with an excellent record of 9-5.

They hosted the defending Grey Cup champion, Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the Eastern Semi-Final and quickly fell behind 14-0, but came roaring back to eventually win 33-21. The Argos then took on the Ottawa Rough Riders in the Eastern Final which was a two game-total point affair. For that first game, played at C.N.E. Stadium in Toronto, Leo designed a new and highly aggressive defensive game plan that kept Russ Jackson and the high- powered Ottawa offense off balance all day with a variety of blitzes. Toronto won 13-11 and hopes were high among Argo fans that they might appear in the Grey Cup for the first time since 1952. But it didn't happen...Ottawa thrashing Toronto 36-14 and winning 47-27 in combined total points.

Despite his disappointment, Leo was satisfied with the excellent progress his team had made that year. In 1969, he added Winnipeg's super-star running back Dave Raimey in a trade that sent Wally Gabler to the Blue Bombers. Toronto had the highest scoring offense in the CFL that season and a volatile defense...led in part by Tricky Dick Thornton, who turned in perhaps the finest individual performance in CFL history...was among the best in all of pro football. Thornton intercepted 7 passes, returning 2 for touchdowns, replaced the injured Raimey at running back and rushed for 114 yards and 1 touchdown and also took over the teams' punting duties for half the season due to an injury to kicker Dave Mann. The Argos finished in second place in the East with a record of 10-4.

Toronto beat Hamilton 15-9 in the Eastern Semi-Final and then took on Ottawa again in the Final. Since Leo had taken over the Argonauts coaching duties, he had only beaten the Rough Riders once. Counting the regular season and playoffs, Leo's Argos had a record of 1-10-1 against Ottawa. The media were full of stores referring to the "Jackson Jinx" and the almost 'bewitching' effect, the great Ottawa quarterback had over Toronto. That drastically changed in the first game of the Eastern Final. Leo had his team prepared to perfection and the Argos whipped Ottawa 22-14 in a game that was not as close as the score would indicate. Days before the second game in Ottawa Leo spoke to the Toronto media and said "It will take an Act of God to beat us on Saturday." Well, that quote was 'blasted' all across the national media and the Ottawa players were enraged what they saw as Leo's lack of respect for them. To be fair Leo meant no disrespect as he explained: "I am from Illinois. Back home when we refer to an Act of God, we mean the weather. I felt unless we got some crazy weather or something like that we would win. I meant no disrespect to Ottawa as they had a great team."

Much to the horror of Cahill and his players the "Act of God" actually occurred. The field at Lansdowne Park in Ottawa froze over due to a cold front and was better suited for the NHL. Toronto had arrived for the game with their normal football cleats and tennis shoes, which gave no traction whatsoever on an icy field. Ottawa was equipped with 'broom-ball' shoes which gave the Rough Riders outstanding traction. Looking back Leo said he knew the game was lost early on:

"I remember early in the game Russ Jackson sent Ronnie Stewart on a sweep to the sidelines. Two of our linebackers went after him. Stewart cut back inside and our linebackers slid right on past him."

Ottawa crushed Toronto 32-3 and won the two game series 46-25, leaving Leo and the Argos red-faced with embarrassment.

Going into the 1970 season, the Argos were strong favorites to win the Grey Cup and Leo Cahill was one of the biggest personalities in Toronto. The Toronto media and fans loved him as he always had time and was constantly quoted in the papers across the country. His Argos were seen as a band of 'mavericks and renegades' and were the first professional sports team to allow their players to wear long hair and mod clothing. Mel Profit, the shaggy blond star tight-end owned his own clothing store known as "The First Asylum" on Wellesley Street which was sort of a hang-out for members of Toronto's counter-culture. Argos such as Dick Thornton, Bobby Taylor, Mel Profit, and Dave Raimey were not only featured in the sports section, they were also regularly seen in the fashion pages of newspapers and magazines! Argonaut games were constant sell-outs both at home and on the road because nobody had ever seen a team like this and the fans loved them! Leo's Argos were 'Canada's team' and fans would even pack the airports when the "long haired, beaded wild men" from Toronto flew in for games. Defensive back Dick Thornton comments; "Leo was a fantastic coach and treated us like men, not kids. As long as we were ready to play and didn't embarrass the team...he never worried about how we looked or what we did off the field."

Leo added more top talent to the "Boatmen" for 1970, signing quarterback Don Jonas... the number one ranked pivot in the Continental League and defensive end Jim Corrigall from Kent State University. Corrigall, a native of Barrie, Ontario, was a 2nd round draft pick of the NFL St. Louis Cardinals, however Leo convinced Jim to play his pro ball back home. Despite the additions of Jonas and Corrigall and yet another outstanding year along the ground from Bill Symons, the 1970 Argos were a major disappointment, finishing with a record of 8-6, only good for 2nd place. They then dropped a 16-7 decision to Montreal in the Eastern Semi-Final. Defensively, the team had played solid all year but the offense was often erratic and failed miserably in the playoff loss to Montreal.

Argonaut owner John Bassett opened his check- book for 1971 and Leo went to work improving his already strong team. He signed Detroit Lion quarterback Greg Barton and Notre Dame Star, Joe Theismann. Theismann was a high draft pick of the Miami Dolphins who were stunned when they lost him to Toronto. From the University of Tampa he signed running back Leon McQuay who had potential and Leo enraged the NFL by signing Ohio State stars...Tim Anderson, a hard hitting safety who was a first round draft pick of San Francisco 49ers, (Anderson marked the first time a NFL 1st round pick ever signed with a CFL team) and Jim Stillwagon, the best defensive lineman in the NCAA and a high draft pick of the Green Bay Packers. Leo also swung a deal with Calgary adding all-star slot-back David Cranmer to the Boatmen.

With these new additions playing superbly and aided by tremendous seasons of veterans Dick Thornton, Peter Martin, Dick Aldridge, Mel Profit, and Marv Luster among others, the Argos rolled to a record of 10-4 and a first place finish in the East. In the two game Eastern Final - Toronto advanced past Hamilton winning the first game 23-8 and tying game two 17-17 for a total point victory of 40-25.

Their last opponent in 1971 would be the Calgary Stampeders in a battle for the Grey Cup. The Argos had not won the big game since 1952 and Calgary hadn't won since 1948. The game was played at Empire Stadium in Vancouver in the midst of a pounding rain-storm so the artificial turf was soaked in water and the footing was appalling. Players were often slipping and sliding as well as having problems hanging on to the wet football. Calgary's offense had some success in the first half scoring two majors, while the Argo offense under Joe Theismann was struggling...picking up only a field goal.

In the second half, Leo's defense came up with a magnificent performance holding the Stampeders scoreless and allowed only one 1st down. The Toronto special teams scored a touchdown recovering a fumbled punt in the 3rd quarter and late in the quarter the Argos picked up a single on a missed field goal. Late in the game, Calgary was clinging to a slim 14-11 lead and backed up deep in their own territory. Calgary quarterback Jerry Keeling dropped back and threw deep to his all-star receiver Jon Henderson. 'Tricky Dick' Thornton deftly picked the pass off at the Toronto 42-yard line and, aided by some tremendous blocks, returned it all the way to the Stampeder 11-yard line, where Keeling was finally able to bring him down. The Grey Cup was now almost in Leo's grasp. On first down Leo ordered a sweep right with McQuay who plowed his way for four hard yards. The Argos were now only seven yards from destiny and ending their 19 year Grey Cup drought. Coach Cahill faced a tough choice. Should he throw? Joe wanted to pass, yet Leo was concerned with the high number of interceptions. (He had thrown 21 that season). They couldn't afford an interception now! As well the Argos were in deep and far to the right...a terrible angle for their kicker to try a game tying field goal if the pass was incomplete. Leo decided to play it safe and ordered a sweep to the left with McQuay. If Leon scores, the Argos would be ahead with less then two minutes to play...and almost certain victory. If he was stopped, then Argos would have centered the ball for the chip shot field goal that would send the game into over-time. Leo felt comfortable with that call as his defense was playing so well. Joe handed off to McQuay who headed left but was carrying the ball in the wrong hand. Leon spotted a hole in the line and inside. Disaster now struck! His right foot slipped on the wet turf and he crashed down on his right elbow...the wet football shooting out of his hands and was recovered by Calgary defender Reggie Holmes. That was it for the Argos who crashed to defeat 14-11 as time ran out.

Despite that heartbreaking loss, the future still looked bright for Leo Cahill and the Toronto Argonauts going into 1972. They had perhaps the finest young team in all professional football and there had not been an unsold seat at C.N.E. Stadium in years for an Argo home game. They had a huge season ticket base with hundreds of people on a waiting list to buy them. The Argos and Leo were regular front- page news in all the papers across Canada. Clearly this was the team of the future! Leo however was not going to sit still as he was always looking to improve. He shocked the NFL's Baltimore Colts by signing Michigan State star running back Eric 'The Flea' Allen away. The Colts had drafted Allen figuring he would be their offensive star of the future. Leo, the ultimate salesman, simply convinced Eric he had a better future in Toronto and offered him a more lucrative contract. He also signed two top offensive linemen from the University of Tampa named Noah Jackson and Ron Mikolajczyk. To make room for these new additions, he released fan favourite and star tight-end, Mel Profit. That was a shocking move as Mel had been an Eastern all-star every year since 1968, was a team captain, and one of the most popular athletes in Toronto history. Argo players were furious over the loss of their leader.

Training camp opened and things rapidly went down hill. John Barrow had been hired as General Manager in 1971, taking that responsibility away from Leo. In his first meeting with the team Barrow completely alienated himself with his straight laced image. After that he kept a low profile for the rest of the 1971 season. He now began asserting his authority causing major tensions between himself and Leo as well as the players. The Argonaut players were loyal to Leo and looked at Barrow as being an unwelcome outsider. Tim Anderson broke his ankle early on and the team doctors told Leo he was finished for the season. Jim Corrigall broke his leg in the All-Star game and McQuay hurt his wrist, (Leon was often plagued by mysterious ailments). In the first game of the season Joe Theismann broke his ankle right off the bat and the Argo dream of a Grey Cup repeat suddenly collapsed. Greg Barton who had played well in 1971 couldn't get the job done and the team, despite strong performances from the defense...lost their first five straight games. Barton was released and Leo brought Wally Gabler back in a quick trade. Wally played well but the team kept losing. Usually the games were close but injuries, (they later lost Pete Martin and Dave Raimey) poor officiating and terrible luck (at times - bizarre) bedeviled the Double Blue. Wally Gabler, looking back at the year says: "Leo was very mature as a coach when I got back in 1972. What was going on there had nothing to do with his coaching ability however. Leo was preparing us well for games. It was almost as if it were simply not meant to be."

Dick Thornton adds:

It was like we were jinxed right from the get-go by the football gods. I'd been through this kind of situation once before with Winnipeg in 1964, so it was like deja vu all over again. However, back then, no one in the Blue Bomber organization panicked when the bottom fell out and we were right back in the Grey Cup in '65. It was a completely different scenario in Toronto.

The Argos ended the 72 season with a record of 3-11...missing the playoffs for the first time in Leo's tenure and less then a week later, Bassett announced Leo Cahill was fired. It was a shocking and very unfair move to a man who had done so much for the city of Toronto and for the CFL as a whole. No coach could have won that season considering all the circumstances.

Leo Cahill was the perfect coach for that era. He was a great motivator and adored by his players. He was funny, often comical at times, the master of the one-liner and the darling of the media because he always had something to say, whether it was right or wrong. The fans either loved him or hated him, but the bottom line was Leo Cahill and his Toronto Argonauts played to sellout crowds and that's the name of the game.

Leo was out of football in 1973 but was back in the news in 1974. A brand new football consortium known as the World Football League was created and John F. Bassett Jr. (son of Argo owner John Bassett) hired Leo as General Manager of his new Toronto Northmen franchise. However, the Canadian Federal Government... in an effort to protect the CFL...threatened to pass legislation banning the WFL from operating in Canada. This forced Bassett to move to Memphis, Tennessee when that city failed in its bid for an NFL team. In an instant, the Toronto Northmen became the Memphis Southmen; same players, same uniforms, same logo, same everything. Leo did a brilliant job building a powerful team that first season. He quickly signed Dick Thornton, who had been jettisoned by the Argos along with other former CFL stars, Charlie Bray, Ron Mikolajczyk and Wally Highsmith. The Memphis Southmen finished with the league's best record, 17-3 and the Central Division Championship.

In 1975, Leo again shocked the NFL by signing Miami Dolphin stars Paul Warfield, Jim Kiick, and Larry Csonka to Southmen contracts. Leo's reputation as perhaps the best recruiter in football continued to grow! In an effort to save the Chicago franchise, the WFL asked Leo to take control of that team and he did a fine job in the Windy City, but it was not enough. The WFL was way under-financed with the signings of many high priced NFL stars and went out of business before the end of the 1975 season.

Leo returned to Toronto and took a job with CHUM radio, but in December 1976, he was back in football by signing a contract to coach the B.C. Lions. Right after inking the contract though, he was approached by new Argo owner Bill Hodgson. Hodgson had purchased the Argos in 1974 and the team had never made the playoffs with him as an owner. Desperate to turn things around he tracked down Leo Cahill. The Coach, who still bled "Double Blue", asked the Lions to release him from their contract. They agreed and Leo was again an Argonaut.

Cahill quickly showed everyone he had not lost his knack for recruiting when he convinced Memphis States' Eric Harris, a brilliant defensive back and a sure number one NFL draft pick, to sign with Toronto before the draft. He also selected two young outstanding Canadians, running back Mark Bragagnolo from the University of Toronto and defensive back Paul Bennett from Wilfrid Laurier University. Leo then swung a deal with Saskatchewan adding two outstanding defensive backs from the Grey Cup finalists of the year before in Jim Marshall and Lorne Richardson. As he had in 1967, Leo had immediately made the Argos a very tough defensive team.

Toronto started off slow in the 1977 season. With the exception of Leo's new additions and some left over veterans from his first tenure with the squad like Jim Corrigall, Mike Eben, and Zenon Andrusyshyn, the Argos had little talent and were 2-5 at the half way mark. Then they began to turn things around on the field and at the box-office. They played as all Leo Cahill coached teams did... tough, aggressive, and at times nasty. More important, they averaged over 46,000 fans per game at C.N.E. Stadium. Toronto stunned the previously undefeated Montreal Alouettes in an enormous upset at Olympic Stadium, and later in the year annihilated arch-rival Hamilton 43-2. The Argonauts finished the season with a record of 6-10, good for third place in the East and their first playoff spot since 1973. In the Eastern semi-final the Argos headed to Ottawa to battle the Rough Riders and Leo was again convinced the Grey Cup was close at hand. Toronto had not been able to defeat Ottawa that season but if they could find a way to win, he was sure their success against Montreal would continue in the Eastern Final and they would be heading to the championship game.

Toronto scored first in the game when Jim Marshall intercepted a Tom Clements pass and returned it all the way for a touchdown. Slowly but surely however, Ottawa pulled ahead. The Toronto defense was playing well but the offense was struggling.

In the second half, the defense lead by veterans Corrigall, Granville (Granny) Liggins, and linebacker Ray Nettles took matters into their own hands and slammed the door on the Ottawa offense. But the Toronto offense was held in check as well. It was a game reminiscent of the 1971 Grey Cup all over again.

In the dying moments of the 4th quarter, trailing 21-16, Toronto quarterback Chuck Ealey got a drive going and they moved the ball to the Ottawa 4-yard line with less then a minute to go. Leo wanted to plot some strategy with Ealey but at this point in time in the CFL - time-outs were not allowed. Leo knew there was only one way to stop the clock and get the chance to confer with his quarterback. He signaled for full back Neil Lumsden to fake an injury. Lumsden went down and the clock was stopped. The cost to Toronto for using this tactic was Neil would have to leave the game for a couple of plays; however Leo still had his outstanding young rookie Mark Bragagnolo to replace him. While the trainer "treated" Lumsden on the field Ealey ran to the sidelines to speak to the Coach. Cahill figured Ottawa would be playing the run and ordered a pass into the end zone. Bragagnolo replaced Lumsden in the backfield and Ealey barked the signals. He took the snap and rolled out to pass. The Rough Riders were caught completely off-guard by Leo's brilliant call, as they were playing the run. An Argo receiver came wide open in the end zone but once again, Fate would not be kind to Leo and the Argos. As the play unfolded, the Argo offensive line got their blocking assignments mixed up. Ottawa's great defensive tackle Mike Raines was double-teamed and slammed out of the play. Double-teaming Raines however allowed defensive end Mike Fanucci a clear path to Ealey. He hammered Chuck just as he was releasing the ball. The ball tumbled out of Ealey's hands and hit the ground with Fanucci recovering the fumble.

Leo couldn't believe what happened. He had called exactly the right play at the right time and yet once again a fumble had killed his team, just as it had in 1971.

Despite the disappointment of the playoff loss, Leo had to be satisfied with the accompliments his team had achieved in 1977. He had taken a team with a modest amount of talent and turned it into a tough, well-regarded opponent. He then began to work on improving the Argos for 1978. However, the way he did this, made headlines across North America by signing running back Terry Metcalf of the NFL St. Louis Cardinals. Metcalf was a brilliant player, perhaps the finest all-around running back in the NFL and without a doubt the most prominent star to head north of the border to the CFL.

With Metcalf running brilliantly, Toronto came out of the gate fast in 1978. Four games into the season they had a record of 3-1, including a 16-11 upset of the defending Grey Cup champion, Alouettes. Then the bottom then fell out. They lost their next 5 straight games, being outscored 154-49 in this period. After their 5th consecutive loss (a 27-2 humiliation by Montreal) Bill Hodgson fired Leo.

Why had the Argos collapsed so spectacularly? There were a few reasons but the main one was a combined lack of talent. Sure, they had several fine players...Terry Metcalf in particular, but the few they had could not make up for the overall lack of balance on the squad. In 1977 Leo had gotten everything possible out of a team with the talent he had to work with. In 1978, it was a different story. There was also turmoil on the coaching staff. Leo and his "loyalists" Jim Rountree and Chuck Dickerson clashed with the other coaches, creating a deep tension that affected everyone's ability to perform well.

Leo was out of football for the next number of years but although rumored to be the front runner for many jobs...but for whatever reason he was never hired for a football position. He did a lot of media work and in particular was a well regarded color analyst on CBC football broadcasts.

In 1986 Leo returned to the Argonauts. They had ended their Grey Cup drought in 1983 but faded badly the following two seasons, missing the playoffs in 1985. Carling O'Keefe who owned the team wanted a winner and ordered team President Ralph Sazio to hire Leo as General Manager. Sazio was obviously not happy about this as he had spent many years with the Tiger-Cats and while there he and Leo had a continuous running feud. As Leo told the author; "I am the reason Ralph stopped coaching. My first year (1967) was his last coaching. I was the first coach to use unlimited motion in the backfield and Ralph couldn't cope with that. He was a very one dimensional coach."

The Argo/Ti-Cat rivalry had reached new heights (or depths!) when Leo coached the Argos and everyone doubted he and Sazio could work together.

At first, there was some synergy. Ralph left Leo alone and he did a great job rebuilding the team. He added some exciting new talent like linebacker Willie Pless and the Argos went from last place in 1985 to 1st place in 1986 with a record of 10-8, yet they got upset in the Eastern Final by Hamilton. In 1987, Leo signed the most exciting running back the Argos had had since Bill Symons was in his prime during the late 1960's. His name was Gill (The Thrill) Fenerty. Fenerty was the greatest running back in the history of Holy Cross University and had somehow been overlooked by the NFL. He had gone to Europe and was playing in Italy when Leo tracked him down. Fenerty simply exploded in Toronto...rushing for over 900 yards, scoring 15 touchdowns and was named the CFL Rookie of the Year. He was helped by the addition of two exciting young quarterbacks who again had been signed by Leo...John Congemi and Gilbert Renfroe.

The Argos improved their regular season record in 1987 finishing 11-7. Their offense was explosive and their defense was as always...very tough, and aggressive. The Argos defeated Hamilton and Winnipeg in the playoffs and headed to Vancouver to take on the Edmonton Eskimos in the Grey Cup. This Championship game was considered by many experts, among the finest ever played. Fenerty played spectacularly, scoring one touchdown on a short plunge into the end zone and then sprinting out of the backfield to haul in a bomb from Gilbert Renfroe and take that all the way for another major. The lead changed hands numerous times and the game wasn't settled until the Eskimo's Jerry Kauric kicked a last minute field goal to give Edmonton a 38-36 victory.

It had been a wonderful year for Leo and the Argos but Leo was still disappointed. He desperately wanted a Grey Cup championship and still didn't have it. With Fenerty running wild and rushing for over 1000 yards in 1988 the Argonauts flattened the Eastern Conference finishing with a record of 14-4. Their season however came to a stunning end as Winnipeg upset them in the Eastern final.

Shortly after the 1988 Grey Cup Leo was called into the office of Ralph Sazio and was advised that he was being terminated. Leo was absolutely stunned. Since returning to the team in 1986, the Argos had made the payoffs three years in row, twice finished in first place and been to the Grey Cup. He had brought some great young talent to the team and had done nothing to deserve this. The only reason ever given for this action was the fact that new Argo owner, Harry Ornest didn't care for Leo personally. Regardless of personalities, they should never get in the way of winning football teams.

Over the next number of years Leo kept busy in business ventures outside of football and in 1996, the Ottawa Rough Riders hired him as General Manager. Leo again went to work trying to rebuild the wreckage of this once proud franchise, but before he could make much progress the team folded.

Since then Leo has been living a private life in Sarnia, Ontario and away from the public spotlight. In December 2001, TSN did a special on Leo Cahill that drew record ratings showing how popular he had been and indeed still was.

Leo Cahill was one of the biggest names in Argonaut and Toronto sports history. He will always be remembered as one of the finest, most colorful coaches in the game and perhaps the best recruiter of talent ever in the C.F.L.

Craig Wallace

is a life long fan of the Toronto Argonauts. He has written numerous articles for www.cfl.ca and www.argonauts.ca He is the author of "A Slip in the Rain, the Toronto Argonauts and the Fumble into Oblivion" which is an exciting history of Leo Cahill's first tenure with the Argos. It was due to be released in the fall of 2003 however due to publishing difficulties its release has been delayed. Craig can be reached at argos@sprint.ca

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