of the last Canadian quarterbacks to see significant
playing time in the Canadian Football League, Frank
Cosentino is long since retired, but far from
author of 15 books, on topics ranging from football
and hockey to the history of Almonte, the Eganville
resident is now working on his third major book on the
Canadian Football League. The book is due out in 2012,
during the 100th anniversary of the CFL.
has been more than 40 years since Cosentino retired
from a CFL career that featured two Grey Cups with the
Hamilton Tiger Cats. But football has remained a
fixture in his life, as a coach, historian and fan.
first played football in his hometown of Hamilton,
Ont., where he had an inauspicious beginning in the
sport, failing to make the first three teams he tried
he wasn’t dissuaded, especially when a growth spurt
and successes as a baseball pitcher convinced others
he might have quarterback potential. About
that time, his father died, leaving Cosentino reeling
from the tragedy.
kind of went into a funk,” he recalls. “I didn’t do
well in school.”
life has a way of turning itself around. Growing about
nine inches in Grade 11, he reached 6-foot-3, the same
height he is today. He made the junior team that year,
and the following season led the Cathedral High School
seniors to the city football title. At
the time, he had no aspirations to play pro football.
But he says sports may have saved him.
“Sports was a God-send,” he says. “If I hadn’t had
basketball, baseball and football, I probably would
have dropped out of school.”
Football continued when he headed off to the
University of Western Ontario, but he still appeared
headed for academic mediocrity, or worse.
Looking back, Cosentino said someone needed to light a
fire under him, and that person turned out to be
Monsignor Wemple, the dean at the university’s King’s
College. Called into his office, Cosentino was told he
had eight weeks to get his academic act in gear.
did. By second year he earned a B average and was into
business school, en route to a bachelor’s degree with
life was getting complicated. To pay his way through
university, he worked with the Steel Company of
Canada. Then, in his fourth year at Western, he and
high school sweetheart Sheila McHugh (whose parents
Charlie and Gertrude are from the Renfrew area) were
university, he was holding his own as a quarterback,
helping Western to two Yates Cups as the Ontario
university football champion, including 1959 when they
beat UBC for the Canadian university title.
also emerged as the Hamilton Tiger Cats’ first draft
pick, and his pro football career was underway.
he emerged with Grey Cup rings, from Hamilton CFL
titles in 1963 and 1965, when the team stars included
defensive linemen John Barrow and Angelo Mosca,
quarterbacks Bernie Faloney and Joe Zuger, and
receiver Hal Patterson. The Cats went 10-4 each of
those regular seasons, before prevailing 21-10 over
the B.C. Lions in 1963, then 22-16 over Winnipeg two
1963, Cosentino played his share during the regular
season, but he never really got off the bench in the
playoffs, except to hold for extra points. In
fact, one of his more exciting times as a Tiger-Cat
included the previous season. The date sticks in his
mind: Oct. 15, 1962.
was one of Joe Zuger’s first games as quarterback,
after previously playing defensive halfback. But Zuger
polished his resume that day, throwing eight touchdown
passes in a crushing defeat of Saskatchewan, before
leaving Cosentino enough playing time to throw two TD
passes of his own. But
Cosentino’s best seasons, as an individual, weren’t
when Hamilton won the Grey Cup, but with the Edmonton
Eskimos in 1967 and ’68. After
winning less than half their games in 1967, the Esks
finished 9-6-1 for third in the Western Conference as
Cosentino started 14 times and finished off the other
two regular-season games. The Esks then lost a
one-sided semi-final to Saskatchewan.
1967 he had one of his best statistical performances
ever, completing something like 21 of 25 passes in a
close loss to the Ottawa Rough Riders. That
performance was followed by a visit to his hometown of
Hamilton, where the Esks prevailed after star receiver
Ted Watkins dropped a sure touchdown pass from
Cosentino’s former teammate, Zuger.
post-game coverage included a photo on the Globe &
Mail’s front page of Cosentino hurdling a would-be
tackler, as the caption referred to the former
Tiger-Cat as Frankie Boy.
guess I was a fan favourite in Hamilton, but I was a
reliever there. I knew my role,” recalls Cosentino.
“But I also had a reputation for coming in and scoring
a few touchdowns.”
During his CFL career, he completed 513 of 1,083
passes for a completion percentage of 47.4. He also
threw 48 TD passes and 73 interceptions. His best
stats were in 1968 with the Esks when he completed 169
of 330 passes for 2,809 yards. Sixteen passes were for
Cosentino was also active on the sidelines. The same
year he won his second Grey Cup, in 1965, Cosentino
helped found the CFL Players Association.
Edmonton, Cosentino says it was different and
refreshing to be out of the local spotlight, after
playing in his hometown. But it wasn’t all rosy. There
was a rough patch between him and head coach Neill
Armstrong, who at one point decided to call all plays
from the bench.
Following one shutout loss, Cosentino quipped to a
reporter that he didn’t like losing, but that at least
he knew his play-calling wasn’t to blame. He was
hauled into Armstrong’s office and reprimanded.
aside, throughout his football career, Cosentino says
he carried his Christian faith with him. This included
his customary prayer, during national anthems, to
commit to playing the best he possibly could.
third and last CFL team he played for was the Toronto
Argonauts. While playing in Edmonton in 1967 and 1968,
he worked on his master’s degree in the history of
sport. Then he was dealt to Toronto.
first, he had the opportunity to accept a prestigious
scholarship, retire from football, and finish his PhD
at the University of Alberta. He elected to play one
more season, with the Argos, before continuing his
doctorate. It was a busy time, but Cosentino says it
was made easier with Sheila ‘holding down the fort’ at
home with four kids.
Toronto, Cosentino joined other striking Argonauts, as
they held out for training-camp pay. They got the pay,
and the Argos went on to place second behind the
Ottawa Rough Riders, with the help of such long-haired
renegades as Mel Profit, Dick Thornton and Dave Raimey.
spirit on the team was tremendous because all the
players were where they wanted to be with the players
they wanted to be with,” says Cosentino of the ’69
season, his last as a CFL player. Tom
Wilkinson was the starting QB, but Cosentino still saw
plenty of action.
proud as he is of his time as a pro player, he says
the biggest moments in his life didn’t involve the CFL. First
has to be meeting and marrying Sheila. Second was the
birth of their first child, Tony. And another big
moment, reserved for football, didn’t happen in the
CFL. Cosentino says it was winning the 1971 Vanier
Cup as head coach of the University of Western Ontario
Mustangs, in a nail-biting win over the University of
Mustangs would also win another Canadian title in
1973, the year after he finished his doctoral degree
with a thesis on the history of Canadian sport.
retiring from the CFL, Cosentino stepped into his
second major career, as a university teacher and
coach. He was an assistant professor of physical
education and head football coach at the University of
Western Ontario from 1970 to 1974, before becoming the
physical education department head in 1975.
1976 he moved to York University where he was a
professor and chairman of the department of physical
education, recreation and athletics, and later named
professor emeritus and senior scholar. At York, he was
also convinced to return to coaching on two occasions,
for another seven years of work on the sidelines.
retired, he’s not really. He enjoys playing tennis and
golf, and his writing continues.
the early 1970s, his list of authored books began to
grow. The 15 books he has authored or co-authored
include Canadian Football: The Grey Cup Years; A
Passing Game: A History of the CFL, 1969-1994; and
works on world-class 19th-century rower Ned Hanlon,
Almonte’s sculptor R. Tait McKenzie and basketball
founder James Naismith, the Renfrew Millionaires
hockey team, and the 1972 Canada-Soviet Union summit
like the research,” says the 74-year-old. “And I like
to find the stories behind the stories.”
than 40 years after his CFL career, he maintains a
fascination for the game, as a fan and an
author-historian, along with life philosophy that has
gone basically unchanged.
quarterback, it was inevitable he would be
second-guessed, just as other high-profile athletes
are. But in becoming conditioned to handle that role,
Cosentino said, “I wasn’t going to second guess what I
did, or what anyone else did, not that you don’t try
to reshape it.”
quarterback, he saw himself mostly as an encourager.
we brought up our kids that way too,” he explains.
“Praise is a terrific way to bring out the best in
Cosentinos’ other children are Mary, Teresa and Peter,
who has two World Series rings, from his days as
marketing vice-president for the Blue Jays.
Hamiltonian, Cosentino continues to enjoy watching the
Tiger Cats. However, he most enjoys watching the
Montreal Alouettes, under the direction of QB Anthony
Calvillo, or teams coached by Wally Buono, whose B.C.
Lions have reversed a horrible start to this season.
“(Buono) seems to be composed and thoughtful on the
sidelines, and he always seems to come up with a good
quarterback and the kind of athletes he wants,” says
Whomever he’s watching, the Eganville resident says
it’s no surprise the CFL’s attracting a lot of
attention. After all, rosters are larger than several
years ago, and players are faster, stronger and bigger