There is no one person that has given more to the BC Lions and football in the province of British Columbia than Bob Ackles. Over a span of 40 plus years, Ackles was a great contributor to not only the Lions, but was a major supporter of minor football and Canadian football in general.Bob Ackles served two terms with the club, the first in 1954 when he became the club’s first water boy. Ackles work ethic and dedication saw him quickly rise through the ranks with the club, culminating with Ackles guiding the club to its second Grey Cup as General Manager in 1985.In 1986, Ackles was approached by the Tex Schram and the Dallas Cowboys and Ackles left his beloved Lions for the big time of the NFL.Ackles spent six seasons as Vice President of Player Personnel for the Dallas Cowboys and was instrumental in helping that club win a Super Bowl, despite being let go by the club before they accomplished that feat. Ackles also worked for the Philadelphia Eagles, Miami Dolphins and the Arizona Cardinals, before taking a job with the Las Vegas Outlaws of the short-lived XFL.
When Ackles left in 1986, the club was in great shape on the field and in the stands. However, in his absence things would go downhill. Owner David Braley was running out of options to save his money losing club when he thought to give the unemployed Ackles a call at his Las Vegas home to offer him the reigns of the Lions again. Ackles couldn’t resist returning to the Lions, and he returned in 2002. The team was drawing sparse crowds and the product was poor. After assessing the situation and seeing the sorry state of things, Ackles wondered if the situation was even salvageable.
Bob knew he had to do three things to restore the Lions to a respected franchise. He had to improve the product on the field, restore the relationship with the business community, and help build and grow football at the grassroots level and he succeeded in all three areas. Ackles used his reputation and connections to get the business community of Vancouver back on board with corporate dollars for sponsorships and he created the Orange Helmet Awards Dinner, celebrating the champions of minor football and bringing in huge names in football to speak and raise funds for the amateur game.
On the football side, he hired head coach and general manager Wally Buono to get the product on the field back on track. The Lions found themselves in the 2004 Grey Cup game, but lost to the Toronto Argonauts. The club then failed to appear in the game in Vancouver in 2005, losing to the Edmonton Eskimos at home in the Western Final. But in 2006 it all came together and the Ackles Lions completed the resurrection of the club by winning the 2006 Grey Championship over the Montreal Alouettes.
On July 6th, 2008, the BC Lions family and the CFL were shocked and devastated by the sudden passing of Bob Ackles at the age of 69. His accomplishments and contributions to the Lions, the CFL and the province of British Columbia will never be forgotten, and will probably never be matched. His final contribution before his passing was to sign off on paperwork for a new BC Football Hall of Fame. It will only be fitting that the first inductee and largest exhibit should belong to Bob himself.
- Was with the club in its first season in 1953 at the age of 15 as the team’s water boy.
- Held the positions of water boy, equipment manager, director of football operations, assistant general manager, general manager, and club president.
- The only man to hold management positions in three professional leagues: CFL, NFL, and XFL.
- Inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 2002.
- His autobiography, The Water Boy was published in 2007 and recounted his life and time in all three leagues and the future of the CFL.
- Was a tireless ambassador and protector for the Canadian game, and before his passing, he spoke out passionately against the NFL coming to Canada.
- Was in the final stages of forming a new BC Football Hall of Fame before his death.
More Bob Ackles:
- “Our League” Bob Ackles Tribute
- Bob Ackles In Memory Page: BCLions.com
- Bob Ackles: Wikipedia
- Bob Ackles: Canadian Football Hall of Fame
- Bob Ackles: BC Sports Hall of Fame