SPORTS

Hufnagel, Higgins and Jones named finalists for CFL's coach of the year honour

01/07/2015 12:33 EST | Updated 03/09/2015 05:59 EDT
TORONTO - John Hufnagel, who guided the Calgary Stampeders to the CFL's best regular-season record and a Grey Cup title, was named a finalist for the CFL's coach-of-the-year honour Wednesday.

Tom Higgins of the Montreal Alouettes and Chris Jones of the Edmonton Eskimos are the other finalists. The award winner will receive the Annis Stukus Trophy on Jan. 21 in Winnipeg.

Voting was conducted by 65 members of the Football Reporters of Canada.

Calgary finished atop the West Division with a 15-3 record under Hufnagel, also the club's general manager. After dispatching Edmonton 43-18 in the conference final, the Stampeders capped their season with a 20-16 victory over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the Grey Cup at B.C. Place Stadium.

This marks the fourth time Hufnagel has been nominated for the award. He won it in '08 after leading Calgary to a Grey Cup crown. He and Wally Buono, currently the B.C. Lions' general manager and vice-president of football operations, are the only coaches to lead the Stampeders to multiple championships.

Hufnagel improved his CFL coaching record to 88-37-1, moving him into 11th on the league's all-time list. His career winning percentage of .702 is tops among coaches with at least 100 career appearances on the sidelines.

"I thank the players, coaches and staff of the Stampeders for their contributions to our successful season," Hufnagel said in a statement. "The Grey Cup championship was a team effort and my nomination for the Annis Stukus Trophy is a reflection of the great people we have throughout our organization on and off the field.

"I also congratulate Tom and Chris for their excellent coaching work and their team's success during the 2014 season."

Jones is a first-time award nominee after leading Edmonton to a 12-6 record and second in the West Division in his first season as head coach. After posting a 4-14 record in 2013, the Eskimos recorded the biggest turnaround of any CFL team last season.

Edmonton beat Saskatchewan 18-10 in the West Division semifinal before ending its season with a loss in the conference final against Calgary. Jones is attempting to become the fifth Eskimos coach to win the award, joining Ray Jauch (1970), Hugh Campbell (1979), Ron Lancaster ('96) and Higgins ('03).

Montreal orchestrated an amazing turnaround in Higgins' first year as head coach. The Alouettes began the season 1-7 but finished by winning eight of their last 10 regular-season contests to finish second in the East Division with a 9-9 record.

Montreal became the first team in CFL history to fall six games below .500 and still finish at that mark or better. After dispatching B.C. 50-17 in the East Division semifinal, the Alouettes lost 40-24 to Hamilton in the conference final.

"Any time you receive this type of nomination, it is a reflection of all the work the team and the organization has put in," Higgins said in a statement. "I am flattered to be nominated and I accept it on behalf of the entire Alouettes organization."

Higgins is a two-time recipient of the award, also winning in '05 with Calgary. He's looking to become the fifth Montreal coach to earn the honour. The others include Marv Levy (1974), Charlie Taaffe (1999-2000), Don Matthews (2002) and Marc Trestman ('09).

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