The B.C. Lions announced Wednesday that Wally Buono is taking over head coaching duties next season following Jeff Tedford's resignation after less than a year on the job.
"I'd be lying to you if I said I wasn't a little scared,'' said Buono. "But I'd also be lying to you if I said I wasn't a little excited.''
The 65-year-old served as head coach and general manager of the Lions for nine seasons, winning the Grey Cup in 2004 and 2011 before stepping aside to focus on the front office beginning in 2012.
"This is not something I considered last year, or something that I had considered back in 2011,'' Buono said during a press conference at the team's practice facility. "But this is where we're at. We can put our heads in the sand and not accept it and not be held responsible for it or we can do something about it.''
A four-time coach of the year, Buono holds the CFL record for regular-season wins with 254 and was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 2014. He will return to the dual role of head coach/GM with the Lions in an attempt to resurrect a franchise that hasn't won a playoff game since that 2011 title and suffered from dwindling attendance in 2015.
"You've got to be able to rise up to the challenge,'' said Buono, who owns five Grey Cup rings as a coach. "I believe that I've risen to the challenge many times.''
The Lions finished third in the West Division with a 7-11 record in their only season under Tedford and were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs after a 35-9 loss to the Calgary Stampeders.
The 54-year-old joined B.C. with much fanfare last December after a long career south of the border in U.S. college football and a brief stint as an NFL assistant.
Tedford replaced Mike Benevides - who was fired after three seasons in charge - and did have experience playing and coaching in the CFL, but had been away from the league for more than two decades when he took the job with the Lions.
Tedford promised an up-tempo offence with B.C., but the club instead looked to be stuck in neutral for long stretches, leading to frustration among players and fans alike.
The former head coach of the University of California Golden Bears said after the season that getting a grasp on some of the CFL rules had been a challenge and that he wasn't sure if he would be back for 2016.
That was made official Wednesday.
"After much consideration, I have elected to exercise an option in my contract and will resign as head coach of the B.C. Lions in order to pursue other opportunities in college football,'' Tedford said in a statement. "The team displayed great fortitude in overcoming several obstacles this season and the future is very bright for these young Lions. I wish the Lions family the very best and long and continued success.''
Buono, who also serves as the team's vice-president of football operations, said that offensive co-ordinator George Cortez won't be back next season.
"My job is to do what I do best and build an organization and build winning football teams,'' said Buono, who has 22 years of coaching experience with B.C. and Calgary.
Signed through the 2017 season with the Lions, Buono agreed that his record as a coach cast a long shadow over Benevides and Tedford, but also added he's eager to get back in charge of decisions both on and off the field.
"Why am I here? The single most important reason is I want to put this organization back in the proper position,'' he said. "You can do that when you are in control of everything that goes on with football matters.''