Matthews, who coached Baltimore's CFL team, elected to hall of fame

Led Stallions to Grey Cup in 1995 after helping build the team from scratch

February 11, 2011|By Kevin Van Valkenburg, The Baltimore Sun

Former Baltimore Stallion coach Don Matthews, one of the winningest coaches in the history of the Canadian Football League, has been elected to the CFL Hall of Fame, the league announced Friday.

Matthews won 231 games and 5 Grey Cups during his 22-year career, as well as five more as an assistant coach. In 1995, he guided the Stallions to the Grey Cup during the league's brief expansion into the United States, which marked the only time a team outside of Canada won the league championship. With the Ravens set to arrive in 1996, the Stallions relocated to Montreal after the season.

Mathews, who spoke Friday on a conference call with reporters, still has fond memories of his brief time in Baltimore.

"Baltimore was an amazing experience," Mathews said. "I remember [when I was hired] we went in there carrying tables and chairs in to a room and started calling football players. You talk about building it from scratch. It was an amazing time."

Mathews said he had "mixed feelings" about the Grey Cup residing outside of Canada after the Stallions victory, considering the league was in financial distress at the time and still trying to make its product profitable, but he also understood what the victory meant to a football-hungry city.

"I think we really hit Baltimore at a good time," Mathews said. "It's a great sports town, and we had success, and that's what's going to sell any program. I think that ignited the fire a little bit. They really wanted football in that town, and they certainly proved they deserved an NFL team. I still watch the Ravens sometimes. They play my kind of football — smash mouth football. They're my kind of team."

Mathews, now 71, will certainly go down as one of the CFL's most colorful and memorable characters. He was popular with his players — in part because he defied conventional wisdom by telling his players not to hit during practice — and he wasn't shy about sharing his opinions with the press.

But he won games and turned around franchises at an impressive rate. He coached six different teams during his career — B.C. Lions, Toronto Argonauts, Saskatchewan Roughriders, Baltimore Stallions, Edmonton Eskimos and Montreal Alouettes — and won championships in four different cities.

"It's been a wonderful ride," Matthews said. "It's dominated my life for 30-some years. Every minute of it has been very precious."

Mathews, who compiled a career record of 231-132-1, will be officially inducted into the CFL Hall of Fame in September.

kevin.vanvalkenburg@baltsun.com

twitter.com/KVanValkenburg

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