It's not all Maciocia's fault

JOHN SHORT

, Last Updated: 8:44 AM ET

Danny Maciocia will take heat, almost to infinity, because the Eskimos weren't good enough to make the playoffs.

And that's the whole, simple truth of it - they weren't good enough.

But Danny, poor guy, shouldn't get too much blame.

All teams are attacked by injury, so write off any possibility of excusing the failure because Ricky Ray, best quarterback in the CFL day in and day out, was racked up.

Don't rap game officials, either. Over a season, good calls and bad ones balance out.

Maciocia's critics are quick to deny him credit for the 2005 Grey Cup championship. They point out the team was created mostly by Tom Higgins.

It's equally fair to recognize that most of the serious flaws existed before Maciocia and business head Rick Lelacheur took over.

Hugh Campbell put them in place. He put everything in place.

Now that he's retired, Campbell's immunity from serious criticism is firmer than ever, but his regime built much of this current mess.

Internal issues made it impossible for Higgins to stay. Campbell didn't swing the axe personally, but nothing ever happened without his personal stamp of approval.

Poor recruiting by Paul Jones? Campbell was involved.

Assistant coaches who might not be as good as those on other CFL teams? Campbell was involved.

When the Edmonton Investors Group finally rescued the Oilers from Peter Pocklington and Glen Sather, fans and media finally realized Sather's commitment to Edmonton was gone, his best days behind him.

It was the same for Campbell.

GIFT OF GAB

There have always been great salesmen for sports in this neighbourhood.

First to come to mind, of course, was the late Bill Hunter - but he wasn't the best we've ever had.

It still bugs me that Hunter's name is not part of the title of Northlands-Skyreach-Rexall, the structure he virtually forced Edmonton to construct.

But he isn't the champ.

Don Horwood matched Hunter, in wordage if not volume, when he started to hard-sell the University of Alberta hoops program.

When the verbal avalanche returned to campus 25 years ago, some lofty souls in the phys-ed faculty crept out of their ivory tower to suggest it was unseemly to seek a connection with the masses.

Fortunately, he didn't pay attention - but he isn't the champ, either.

In my opinion, both stand well behind Robert Steadward, who entered the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame last weekend as a builder.

Almost single-handed, he created International Paralympic Sports as a legitimate force. The feat required immense energy, great intelligence and a commitment that blurs the mind.

Steadward - "Doctor Bob" to his friends - also found time to be part of the Commonwealth Games, the World Student Games, Grey Cup committees and almost all of the university's fund-raising efforts.

Perhaps best of all, he's an extremely verbal guy.


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