December 4, 2023

Rob Vanstone: Dazzling debut for Corey Mace as Roughriders’ Head Coach

By resoundingly winning a getting-to-know-you press conference, newly appointed Saskatchewan Roughriders Head Coach Corey Mace is already in elite company. 

Mace’s impressive introduction places him on a podium alongside Kent Austin and Corey Chamblin — the last two people to coach the Green and White to a Grey Cup championship. 

Austin’s hiring became official on Dec. 6, 2006, when he conducted a master class in communicating with the masses, via the media. 

The feedback had not been as laudatory in the winter of 1994, when Austin requested a trade that would controversially conclude his first stint in Riderville. 

After quarterbacking the Roughriders to a Grey Cup victory in 1989, Austin threw for 20,720 yards and 125 touchdowns over the next four seasons. 

It was the most exciting extended air show any of us have ever seen. However, an air of discontent surrounded Austin’s departure. 

Naturally, questions about that dissolution of ties surfaced when Austin returned to the organization late in 2006. 

Here is what I wrote in the best-selling, Dec. 7, 2006 edition of the Regina Leader-Post: 

Austin and his family handled the proceedings, which he labelled “surreal,” in masterful fashion. 

When Austin was asked how he would placate people who may harbour lingering bitterness about the events of 1994, his answer was punctuated by an interjection from his wife, Shelley. 

“You can blame it all on me,” she said. “It was all my fault.” 

In a matter of seconds, Shelley disarmed everyone. The crowd roared. 

“Next question,” the Roughriders’ new head coach said between chuckles. 

The rekindled love affair between Austin and Rider Nation reached a crescendo on Nov. 25, 2007, when Saskatchewan defeated the Winnipeg Blue Bombers 23-19 in the 95th Grey Cup Game. 

We take you now to Dec. 15, 2011, when the coaching tenure of Corey Chamblin officially commenced. 

The Leader-Post headline: “Riders’ coach shines in debut.” Below, this scribbler opined that “Chamblin exudes charisma and personality.” 

Just under two years later, he helped the Roughriders engineer a landmark home-field Grey Cup victory. 

Fast forward to Dec. 1, 2023, when the Roughriders again unveiled a Head Coach who — this is a recording — “exudes charisma and personality.” 

Nice to meet you, Corey Mace. 

“I’m from Vancouver and we moved out to Port Moody,” the 48th Head Coach in Roughriders history said early in Friday’s media gathering. 

“I played college football at the University of Wyoming — which is in Laramie, if any of you guys want to check out what that looks like. It’s very similar to here. There’s one team and everybody’s coming from all four corners of the state. That team matches the community — and that’s my vision. 

“I was fortunate enough to spend three years in Orchard Park for another team, that being the Buffalo Bills, and I think we all understand what that fan base looks like and what that team tries to personify while matching that community. 

“I believe this is the one organization in the CFL that marries that concept.” 

Perfect. And there was much, much more. 

“My wife and I went to Cancun — this was pre-kids, certainly — and we jumped on a little boat to go to some smaller island,” Petra Mace’s proud husband recalled. “And, sure enough, you see Riders gear. I’m thinking, ‘How is this possible? There’s green everywhere!’ 

“Being here, you certainly understand it. You understand it as a visitor coming here. And you understand when you get to know people from the province of Saskatchewan what this logo and what this team means to this community. 

“I take pride in that as much as I know that the community takes pride in this team. I will never lose sight of that, I promise you, and I’ll do everything I can to really provide that sentiment to the gentlemen who are going to don the jerseys on behalf of your team.” 

That was said with all due respect to Jeremy O’Day (the Roughriders’ General Manager and Vice-President of Football Operations) and Craig Reynolds (President-CEO). 

“While J.O. is the GM, Craig’s the President and I’m the Head Coach, this is Saskatchewan’s team,” Mace emphasized. 

“There’s been other GMs, there’s been other Coaches, there’s been other Presidents and there’s been other players. But, over time, everybody rides for that …” 

That being a Roughriders helmet, which Mace reached out and patted before completing the thought. 

“I will never lose sight of that,” he said. “The players will not lose sight of that, either.”