Award riles up Argo

PERRY LEFKO -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:12 AM ET

He was robbed.

After Pinball Clemons finished second to Hamilton counterpart Greg Marshall in the voting announced for the 2004 Canadian Football League coach of the year, Argos cornerback Adrion Smith called The Toronto Sun to express his dissatisfaction with the voters -- the football reporters of Canada. Marshall had 19 first-place votes, Clemons 10 and B.C.'s Wally Buono, the other finalist, one.

Clemons coached the Argos to a 27-19 victory over B.C., in the Grey Cup, after Toronto beat the Tiger-Cats in the East semi-final and Montreal in the East final. Both Montreal and B.C. were favoured in their games against Toronto.

"You know what, your kid may not care that the kid at school is bullying him, but the parent will care and will stand up for the kid," Smith said in trying to make an analogy. "Pinner doesn't care. We got the big award. Our names are engraved on the Grey Cup and we're going down in history, but you shouldn't just walk all over us just because we won it all and everyone hates Toronto and everything.

"Pinner might not believe (it's a big deal not to win the award). He stands up for people all the time, so why shouldn't we stand up for Pinner because we believe that he should have won coach of the year?"

Smith wanted to make it clear he was not discounting anything Marshall or the Tiger-Cats did. The first-year professional head coach took the Tiger-Cats from 1-17 the year before to a 9-8-1 regular-season record, helping drive a resurgence in Hamilton.

"I'm not taking away from their season in any way, shape or form," he said. "In a nutshell, what I'm saying is the Toronto Argonauts came from the place that (the Tiger-Cats) came from. Both teams were put into receivership (in 2003). Both of us had issues we had to overcome. Both of us got new owners. But we won the title.

"Yeah, they had a 1-17 record the year before. They had nothing to do but improve. We were significant underdogs against Montreal, who had the best record in the league and who everybody said would not be beaten (in the division final). And this was our third time going there in a row and we were definitely underdogs in the Grey Cup. For a coach to get his team ready to play in those games, he should be awarded coach of the year."

Smith said that while winning the Cup shouldn't necessarily equate to winning coach of the year, he noted the previous two winners -- Don Matthews with Montreal in 2002 and Tom Higgins with Edmonton in 2003 -- were winners of the Cup and the award in the same year.

Smith dismissed any suggestion that race factored into the vote. A black coach has never won the award and, in fact, Clemons made history by being the first black head coach in the Grey Cup and then winning it.

"I think it is a jealousy and envy vote," Smith said. "I'm not remotely saying it's racially motivated. I just think it's a no-brainer. I just think it's absurd that Pinner didn't win."


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