Plan B-devilling

DAN TOTH -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 7:32 AM ET

Ron Rooke's demise might have been averted had a little backroom skullduggery gone according to plan.

Fired yesterday by the team's new ownership group, the former Stampeders president and CEO has taken the fall, along with GM/head coach Matt Dunigan, for last season's dismal 4-14 performance.

Their fate has been intertwined for more than a year since Rooke hitched his wagon to Dunigan's star, introducing him as his "first choice" at a packed press conference Dec. 23, 2003, a day after firing Jim Barker.

At the time, Rooke was arguing the CFL needed more fresh faces in important roles instead of old, worn-out names from the past.

In reality, Rooke had rolled the dice and lost, scuttling a plan that could have turned the Stampeders into a winner.

While the guillotine blade was ominously hanging over his head this week, Rooke admitted his real plan a year ago was stopped by Saskatchewan GM Roy Shivers, forcing Plan B.

Although Rooke, at the time, denied published reports he was negotiating a contract with Shivers -- who was and still is locked into a long-term deal in Regina -- he's now admitting he was working to lure Shivers to Calgary to rebuild the Stampeders.

Dunigan was ownership's backup plan when Shivers -- the personnel mastermind behind the Stamps' halcyon days of the 1990s and a friend of Rooke's -- informed Calgary's new prez at the 11th hour he couldn't get out of his 'Riders deal.

Three days later, Dunigan was hired for both crucial jobs despite having no practical experience.

Rooke introduced Dunigan as a fresh face, a CFL great capable of duplicating the feat with the Stampeders if only given the chance, this time wearing headphones instead of a helmet.

The rest is history and so are Rooke and Dunigan.

As the story goes, Shivers was planning to bring with him a healthy chunk of the Roughriders staff, including head coach Danny Barrett and even defensive co-ordinator Richie Hall.

With them would have come the kind of valuable experience dearly lacking in the Stamps organization last season.

"It's too bad because Ron said Shivers had agreed to come here and bring the whole Roughriders staff with him but it fell through at the last minute," noted veteran offensive lineman Jamie Crysdale.

Ironically, a year after failing to steal Shivers from the Green and White, Rooke was nailed by the CFL for tampering after expressing a desire to chase QB Henry Burris, under contract with the Roughies until Feb. 15.

Had Shivers and Barrett taken up residence at McMahon Stadium, Burris might have crawled to Calgary for a chance to join the duo.

Granted, trying to kidnap personnel from another franchise isn't exactly honorable but as the players like to say, 'It ain't cheatin' if you don't get caught.'

Rooke got flagged on both plays.

Now he's the one looking for work, although Rooke's marketing skills should draw plenty of job offers from Calgary businesses, even other CFL teams.

Dunigan was a TSN analyst before coming to Calgary and has been tight-lipped in recent weeks.

He has apparently explored a return to the tube next season with The CFL on CBC.

The Stamps have yet to announce Dunigan's replacement, although former Eskimos head coach Tom Higgins has long been rumoured in line for one or both of the jobs.


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