'Gades' credibility rests with Tillman

BARRE CAMPBELL -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 10:54 AM ET

In only a matter of time, the CFL and the rest of the league will stick a fork into Lonie Glieberman.

The tidal wave of change has already swept through the front office on Bank St., with Phil Kershaw taking over operations temporarily while Bernie Glieberman finds somebody else to run the show.

The first thing the Renegades need to do to get the club back on track is convince Eric Tillman to lead the football side.

For that to happen, John Lisowski needs to be out of the organization.

The team is doomed as long as the former CEO, who has supposedly taken a diminished role with the club, continues to whisper advice into the owner's ear.

Lisowski, if you don't know, is the accountant hired by former owner Randy Gillies following the second season of the franchise.

He proceeded to chop the heart and soul out of the organization, most notably Tillman, who had developed a solid reputation as GM and as a tremendous spokesman for the club.

CANNED BY LISOWSKI

When Tillman balked at Lisowski's demands for cuts to the football budget, the man who gained the nickname Johnny Trump moved to take him out.

Tillman ended up getting Lisowski's boot and it's been downhill since for the team.

Joe Paopao took over and couldn't juggle the duties of both GM and coach. His assistant coaches became increasingly frustrated and a deep schism and mistrust developed between football operations and administration.

The ramifications trickled right down into the locker room, where players couldn't ignore the gong show taking place all around them.

And it affected their performance on the field.

Bernie Glieberman should do the team and himself a favour by hiring a person who understands the business -- but more importantly understands the importance of people.

The return of Tillman on the football side would bring the franchise an instant boost in credibility, something the club desperately needs.

Through that Mississippi drawl, he speaks eloquently and passionately about the CFL.

He knows the league and has an extensive list of football contacts across North America.

PALS WITH JENKINS

The bonus is that he and new coach John Jenkins are friends, so there wouldn't be an issue of the coach not being one of the GM's guys.

After moving Lisowski out and getting the proper staff in place to run the show, the first matter of business would be an improvement in customer relations.

It seems like a basic principle of business, but one that every director of the franchise has forgotten.

Lonie Glieberman insisted when he returned in his second stint that things would be different, but he didn't listen to fans.

His heart was in the right place, but he stubbornly went ahead with last year's Mardi Gras promotion, even after the Renegades became the laughingstock of the CFL.

The members of Renegades Nation want to be proud of the franchise, not embarrassed by it.

Even buying a ticket, the cornerstone of any successful sports operation, has become a test of anybody's patience.

Call the Renegades office, and you get an automated response from an answering machine, not a friendly, human voice eager to take your order and thank you for supporting the team.

The office is staffed by one person -- yes, one -- to sell the majority of the 28,000 seats at Frank Clair. The Lynx, for crying out loud, have a larger ticket staff.

The biggest complaint from fans is the time they have to wait for a response from a Renegades staff member.

Lonie Glieberman has continually said in the past that this is unacceptable.

If it is, then do something about it and treat your fans with respect.

And speaking about respect -- what about the city's francophone market? The team does little to sell itself to French fans on the Ontario side of the Ottawa River.

In Quebec, it's even worse. Football fans in Gatineau support the Alouettes instead of the Renegades, and who can blame them, when the team does so little to make francophones feel welcome?

A friend who knows the sports marketing business once said a CFL owner should ask himself only two questions at the end of each year:

Did I win the Grey Cup?

Am I making money?

If Glieberman or any other owner of this franchise invests in passionate staffers who truly understand the business -- instead of those interested in their own power agendas -- the answers could be yes sooner rather than never.

And that could save the CFL here in Ottawa.

BRIEFLY: G Pascal Cheron has officially bolted from the Renegades, signing a one-year deal plus an option with Hamilton ... Calgary's Tom Higgins is the CFL's coach of the year. The finalists were Toronto's Mike "Pinball" Clemons and Danny Maciocia of the Grey Cup-champion Eskimos.


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