Ticats shuffle baffling

PERRY LEFKO -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:13 AM ET

HAMILTON -- Professional sports is all about winning and losing and job security.

When a team starts off a season sluggishly and is in danger of missing the playoffs as early as the halfway point of the season, the general manager and/or the head coach could be the fall guy, depending on the whims of the owner.

Hamilton Tiger-Cats' second-year owner Bob Young had been watching his team go through a prolonged period of regression this year, and after the team dropped to 0-6 last week, he decided changes had to be made.

But the changes he unveiled yesterday could best be described as baffling, albeit humane.

He re-assigned his general manager, Ron Lancaster, to the position of senior director of football operations and moved Rob Katz, who had been working in the business office, into the interim GM's job.

The only thing is, Katz has never worked in a football operations capacity before. His experience, and he has a wealth of it, is in sports marketing and communications. Exactly how that will help a team that is last in the league and is in desperate need of help is unsure.

In the short term, he will be lending his expertise to revamping the Tiger-Cats' scouting system, in particular through his knowledge of computer technology, and contract negotiations.

By Lancaster's own admission, that had been an area in which he had been struggling. He has been involved in the Canadian Football League as a player and a head coach off and on for 45 years, but he had no experience as a GM when Young hired him last year.

Because the Tiger-Cats have been in tailspin this season after posting a 9-8-1 record last year and qualifying for the playoffs, there have been some fans in Hamilton who have been calling for Lancaster's head. They may be part of the same posse who wanted him removed permanently from the Tiger-Cats' employment after he coached the team to a 1-17 record in 2003.

Young, a billionaire who made his fortune in the tech industry, decided Lancaster had value to the organization to help tutor and nurture Greg Marshall through hist first year as a head coach in the professional ranks. Marshall had turned around the slumping McMaster University football program and fans and critics of the Tiger-Cats lauded Young's decision to hire him. It was considered bold and new and the fact Marshall received the award as the head coach of the year underlined the successful hiring.

But Marshall is going through the equivalent of the sophomore jinx this year. There have been few, if any, suggestions among Tiger-Cats' supporters/critics that Marshall should be fired.

So that's why the focus is on Lancaster. But how will a person who has never managed in any kind of football capacity be an improvement on Lancaster? That is not an indictment on Katz nor an endorsement of Lancaster.

Young could have hired an interim GM with experience, but he has chosen to put a novice in place, and it's somewhat reminiscent of some of the moves Sherwood Schwarz made in his days as the Argos' owner. In 2002 he hired Pinball Clemons as a head coach while still active as a player. At the the time Schwarz's hiring of Clemons had been considered something of a publicity stunt to stem the tide of discontentment among angry Argo fans. They wanted the head coach and the general manager fired. Instead, Schwarz came up with an interesting compromise.

Young has come up with a creative solution to the currents ails of the Tiger-Cats. No one has been fired, but it's quite likely the fans in Hamilton won't embrace the hiring of Rob Katz will the same passion that Argo fans embraced Clemons's hiring.


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