Bringing back Riley

KIRK PENTON -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:27 AM ET

Every time the Winnipeg Blue Bombers are looking for a new head coach -- and that's happened a lot lately -- there are more than a few fans who want to bring back Mike Riley.

Well, the Bombers are finally bringing back Mike Riley, but this time it's to induct him into the Winnipeg Football Club Hall of Fame. He will be the lone inductee at the club's annual Legacy Dinner on June 13 at Canad Inns-Polo Park.

"The sole induction is significant," Bombers president and CEO Lyle Bauer said. "It shows the level of respect that people have for what Mike Riley did here."

Riley is revered so because he guided the Blue and Gold to Grey Cup titles in 1988 and 1990, and spent only four years at the helm. Even though his regular-season record was a decent 40-32, his legacy is magnified because the '90 team was the last to win a CFL championship for long-suffering Bomber fans.

"The '90 team was probably the best overall team we had," Riley said over a speaker phone yesterday from Corvallis, Ore., where he coaches the Oregon State Beavers. "That was really a great group of guys."

Riley, the son of former Bomber coach Bud Riley, actually won three Grey Cups in Winnipeg, as he was the defensive backs coach with the 1984 championship squad.

Bauer played on the '84, '88 and '90 teams, and he laid out all three championship rings on the table during yesterday's press conference.

"Does any more really need to be said?" he asked.

Remarkably, Riley hasn't been back to Winnipeg since leaving for the World League in 1991, so he and his family, which includes wife Dee, son Matt and daughter Kate, are looking forward to their return in June.

"It'll be awesome," the 53-year-old said. "My kids are excited. Both my kids were born in Winnipeg, and we lived out in Westwood, had a great neighbourhood, had great friends outside of football, a wonderful life.

"We're all looking forward to coming back and seeing friends and getting to be a part of the organization once again and hopefully see a lot of former players I haven't seen in a long time."

Riley's favourite memories are from 1988, when the Bombers lost their last three regular-season games -- badly -- to finish at 9-9. Despite the swoon, they redeemed themselves with a win over the B.C. Lions in the championship game in Ottawa.

Riley, who is going into his seventh year at Oregon State, still uses experiences like that as inspiration for his young players today.

"I talk about the players from those teams and tell stories that I think are great stories about playing the game, about who you are," Riley said. "I talk about that '88 Grey Cup team, when nobody in the world thought we could win. Believe me, I use that example often.

"... It was a great, great part of our life. I miss it and love it, and I'm deeply appreciative of being even considered for this honour."

Tickets for the Legacy Dinner are $250 each and can be purchased by calling 784-2583.


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