Austin named CFL's top coach for 2007

Former Saskatchewan Roughriders bench boss Kent Austin, who guided the team to a Grey Cup title last November, was named the 2007 CFL coach of the year Wednesday.

'It was a magical year,' former Riders coach says

Kent Austin has more Canadian Football League hardware to show off to his new employers at the University of Mississippi.

The former Saskatchewan Roughriders bench boss on Wednesday was named the recipient of the Annis Stukus Trophy as the CFL's 2007 Coach of the Year during a luncheon in Calgary.

"I was just a small part of our success and got way too much
credit for it," Austin told reporters at the event. "It was a magical year."

Austin, who left on Jan. 16 to become the offensive co-ordinator at his alma mater, Ole Miss, guided the Riders to a 23-19 win over Winnipeg in the 95th Grey Cup last November in Toronto.

Austin beat out Wally Buono of the B.C. Lions and former Toronto Argonauts coach Mike (Pinball) Clemons — a runner-up for a sixth straight year — receiving 21 of 42 first-place votes from the Football Reporters of Canada.

"I actually had to dismiss one of my coaches so that he could become coach of the year," cracked Clemons when the finalists were announced earlier this month.

"This time, should what I'm predicting come true [and Austin prevails], I won't just be a gracious bridesmaid, I'll be a proud one. I'm just so proud of him and love him to pieces.

"To see him achieve the success that he has and be on the stage that he is at this point and have the options and opportunities that he has, for me, is one of my greatest victories in football."

Saskatchewan's 12 wins during the regular season were the most by a rookie coach in franchise history, and helped the Roughriders secure their first home playoff game since 1988.

Austin becomes the first Roughrider to be named coach of the year since John Gregory in 1989. Austin was instrumental in Gregory claiming the honour as Saskatchewan's starting quarterback, and was named the Grey Cup MVP after the team's thrilling 43-40 win over Hamilton in the CFL's title game.

He also won as a player in 1994 with the B.C. Lions. Austin left the CFL for a brief time and returned in 2003 as a coach with the Ottawa Renegades before a stint with the Argos, with whom he won a Grey Cup in 2004. Austin was fired as offensive co-ordinator in August 2006.

Buono led the Lions to a franchise-record 14 wins and a fourth straight first-place finish in the West Division.

He is one of three coaches in CFL history to be named coach of the year at
least three times, the last being in 2006 after leading B.C. to a
Grey Cup title.

The 18-year CFL coach has compiled a 215-106-3 record, putting him second only to Don Matthews (231) in all-time wins.

Clemons led the Argos to their sixth consecutive playoff berth this season. The team rebounded from a 2-6 start to finish in first place in the East Division with an 11-7 record.

He stepped down Dec. 4 and was named the Argos' chief executive officer.