Watch out for Renegades

PERRY LEFKO -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:02 AM ET

Whoever said "you're only as strong as your weakest link" had the Ottawa Renegades in mind.

The Renegades are, to use the title of that ballyhooed game show, the weakest link in the Canadian Football League.

That's the reason why, despite significant gains across the board for the CFL, the Renegades remain a significant story.

The father-and-son ownership tandem of Bernie and Lonie Glieberman are back for a second go-round following their controversial departure after the 1993 season that ended a curious term of 2 1/2 seasons. While the team produced the best record in some 25 years in the Ottawa market in 1992 -- a 9-9 mark -- it went backward the next season and never recovered.

The Gliebermans, who bought a controlling interest in the team for an undisclosed sum during the off-season, are poised to pump money into the business and football operations, notwithstanding the interesting decision to not send the team's public relations director on the road, deeming that an unnecessary expense. For a team that will be considered a novelty this season -- only partly because of the Gliebermans -- you would think having a public relations person on the road would be requisite.

Whether the Ottawa market is ready to embrace the Gliebermans and/or the Renegades football team remains to be seen. The team's lone pre-season game at home drew less than 10,000, partly because of inclement weather, but the Renegades have a season-ticket base of only 5,000, something the Gliebermans hope to increase with marketing schemes and promises of an improved on-field product.

There will be a season-long watch on head coach Joe Paopao, who enters his fourth season on the sideline but his first as the general manager. Fans found fault with Paopao after last season when the Renegades fell in the standings from the previous year. Paopao not only kept his job, despite protestations from some fans, but the fractured ownership handed him the GM title, too.

He has made changes in his coaching staff and personnel, but will be under the thumb of venerable Forrest Gregg, who has followed the Gliebermans around since their Shreveport experience in 1994 and has the title of vice-president of football operations. Following an absence of 10 years from working in any capacity in pro football, Gregg is relying on his reputation and contacts.

It's expected the Renegades will get worse before they get better, and likely will have some changes in their football operations at some point this year.

The other big story will be Tom Wright and whether he agrees to a new term as commissioner. The board of governors have offered him a one-year extension, which is hardly a vote of confidence, and is insisting he hire someone to handle day-to-day operations. Under Wright's aegis, the CFL has seen its business improve significantly, but he has critics on the board who find fault with his direction.

Officiating should improve following a financial commitment made by the league during the off-season, although video replay won't commence until next year at the earliest.


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