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Home Sports Former Roughriders head coach and Grey Cup winner John Gregory dies at 84

Former Roughriders head coach and Grey Cup winner John Gregory dies at 84

Former Roughriders head coach and Grey Cup winner John Gregory dies at 84
Saskatchewan Roughriders

Former Saskatchewan Roughriders head coach and Grey Cup championship John Gregory has passed away at the age of 84.

Gregory led the Riders from 1986 to 1991, and became just the second head coach in team history to win a Grey Cup when the Riders defeated the Hamilton Tiger-Cats 43-40 in 1989.

“The Saskatchewan Roughriders are heartbroken to learn of the passing of our Grey Cup champion coach John Gregory,” reads a statement issued by the Riders.

“He will be remembered as an incredible coach and an even better person.”

The funeral is scheduled for Jan. 31 at the McLean Funeral Home in Gastonia, North Carolina. The family has requested that attendees wear their favourite football jerseys.

In lieu of flowers, fans have been asked to make a donation in Gregory’s name to KidSport Canada.

“An athlete never forgets that coach that believes in them, then backs them when their confidence is at an all-time low,” former Saskatchewan Roughriders safety and TSN analyst Glen Suitor wrote on Twitter. “RIP coach Gregory and thank you.”

Gregory broke into the CFL as an offensive line coach with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers before becoming Saskatchewan’s head coach in 1986. At the time, the Riders were mired in a nearly decade long play-off drought, having missed the post-season every year since their last Grey Cup appearance in 1976.

Under Gregory, the Riders returned to respectability. They made the playoffs in 1988 with an 11-7 record, then took the next step in 1989 with upset playoff wins against Calgary and Edmonton before beating Hamilton in the Grey Cup.

Current Calgary Stampeders president John Hufnagel played and coached under Gregory in Saskatchewan. He released a statement on Monday saying he was sad to learn of Gregory’s passing.

“He was a great football man and friend,” Hufnagel wrote. “I’ll always be grateful to him for giving me the opportunity to begin my coaching career … when he was head coach of the Roughriders. I learned a lot from John, and was very pleased in 2014 when he agreed to attend the Stampeders’ training camp as a guest coach.”

Gregory was fired by the Riders in 1991 after a 1-6 start. He was hired that same year by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, where he coached until 1994.

In 1995, Gregory moved back to the U.S. and accepted a job coaching the Iowa Barnstormers of the Arena Football League. He turned the expansion Barnstormers into a powerhouse, winning five division titles in six years and making two ArenaBowl appearances.

During that time he also helped launch the career of future Super Bowl MVP quarterback Kurt Warner.

“Coach Gregory is a huge part of the Iowa Barnstormers history and future as he set the tone for years to come,” read a statement from the Barnstormers. “Words cannot express how much he will be missed by the Barnstormers community.”