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DEREK VAN DIEST -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:26 AM ET

The CFL governors watched the Ottawa Renegades circle the drain, knowing there were essentially two options: Save them, or fold them.

They went with the latter.

Not wanting to spread the financial burden throughout the remaining eight franchises, the decision was made on Sunday to suspend operations in Ottawa for the upcoming season.

The league schedule was revised and a dispersal draft will take place tomorrow.

"When you lose a franchise it's always disappointing. But you have to measure everything and the decision made (Sunday) was the right decision for the CFL," said Edmonton Eskimos president and COO Rick LeLacheur.

"We looked at a number of situations, but we all felt at the end of the day we had to do this right. We have eight strong franchises right now. We've been in an eight-team league before, it gives us a balanced schedule. If we're going to go into Ottawa, we'll do it right."

A search for new ownership was initiated when Bernie Glieberman decided to pull the plug in Ottawa. However, it soon became evident a new owner wouldn't be found in time for the season.

RIGHT BUSINESS PLAN

"If a significant owner with a right business plan showed up, we would have looked very hard at it," LeLacheur said. "But that wasn't the case, so you deal with what we have."

Ottawa re-entered the league in 2002 as an expansion franchise. At the time the nation's capital had been without CFL football for five years following the Rough Riders' demise. Whether the team returns for the 2007 season depends on whether stable ownership can be found.

"I would be very hopeful that we have a strong grassroots ownership basis in Ottawa and I think that's what it'll take," LeLacheur said.

"I don't know the market as well as I do here. I would hope that at some point we can go back to Ottawa. But I would hope that any movement back to Ottawa would start from a groundswell of local support both from a fan base and ownership base. I think it would be a far stronger franchise if it was a local group."

The Gades had run into problems this off-season with poor ticket sales and sponsorship renewal with Glieberman's son Lonie running the team. Soon after Lonie resigned, Bernie and minority shareholder Bill Smith put the team up for sale.

"I don't see us going back to Ottawa at all costs," LeLacheur said. "I think it's more important, if we re-enter the Ottawa market the next year or the year after, it's with the right ownership group, the right management and the right terms with the city. All of those things need to be right."

The Eskimos were forced into making a few changes to the schedule with Ottawa out of the league. They did manage to retain all but one of their original home dates. Their season opener was scheduled to be against the Renegades on June 24.

OPENING AGAINST STAMPS

The Eskimos will now open the season with a home-and-home encounter against the Calgary Stampeders. They'll play June 17 in Calgary and return to Edmonton on June 24.

"From a business point of view whenever you have Calgary twice and Saskatchewan twice you're happy. That's what we have in the home schedule," LeLacheur said. "Overall, we're pretty happy with the schedule. Whenever you have to make a change it's always difficult, but I've seen worse cases. When Montreal pulled out in 1987 it was two days before the season started. We have more time this time."


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