'Gades fans deserve better

Renegades owner Bernie Glieberman (left) and minority partner Bill Smith met with CFL commissioner...

Renegades owner Bernie Glieberman (left) and minority partner Bill Smith met with CFL commissioner Tom Wright for what had been billed a critical meeting at the league's office in Toronto. (Ottawa Sun File/Sean Kilpatrick)

BARRE CAMPBELL -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 7:24 AM ET

With every passing day and each passing hour, the Renegades just sink deeper and deeper into the quagmire.

Just when things started looking better for the moribund franchise, the fans get another kick in the gut.

Last week, club owner Bernie Glieberman and minority partner Bill Smith met with CFL commissioner Tom Wright for what had been billed a critical meeting at the league's office in Toronto.

They emerged seemingly in accordance, ready to work together to keep the team alive and kicking.

There was talk about bringing Eric Tillman back into the fold, getting the former GM to take over the football operations.

And there were meetings with Bob Nicholson of the Washington Nationals to see if the former Argos president, who has a solid reputation in the CFL, would be interested in taking over the club's business operations.

Now nothing seems to be happening.

Even worse, a report yesterday suggested the upcoming Renegades season was in jeopardy and that a meeting next week at the league's headquarters in Toronto would determine the team's short-term future, with Glieberman and Smith at odds over who covers losses during the upcoming season.

Glieberman reacted angrily to the report, saying it wasn't true and that he wasn't aware of any meeting.

But a spokesman at the CFL office confirmed a meeting would take place next week.

From a public relations perspective, it's the absolute worst bit of information that could hit the streets at such a tenuous moment for the club.

What should have been a long-bomb touchdown of a good-news week for the Renegades has turned into -- yet again -- another fumble.

Last week, the owners were talking about holding a media conference to announce Tillman's return.

At the time, they hoped to have that done as early as tomorrow to send a message to fans and throughout the league that positive moves were taking place.

And not only taking place, but being expedited because, let's face facts here, training camp is only nine weeks away.

But now there's this latest delay.

Tillman wants his contract guaranteed by either the Renegades or the league, but neither would make that commitment.

That pretty much says it all.

Nobody would step forward and make a move to ensure that an important step in getting the team off the ropes -- in this case, the return of Tillman -- would happen.

'SENSE OF URGENCY'

Two weeks ago, Wright himself spoke of the "sense of urgency" surrounding the Renegades and reaffirmed the league's stance that the CFL would become a 10-team league with Ottawa as one of those franchises.

A few days later, Glieberman and Smith were at the league office talking with Wright and meeting with candidates to take over the operation's business side.

So there was reason for hope.

But now, when the very existence of the team is in doubt, Wright is on vacation in the Dominican Republic.

Sure, it would have been impossible for the commish to predict when all these things would have blown up.

But it's just plain bad PR for the leader of a small nine-team league to be away on holiday while one of the circuit's franchises is going through such a pivotal moment.

It's giving some of the owners who want Wright to be turfed more ammunition.

Others who have supported Wright in the past might now be willing to listen.

Glieberman, meanwhile, said he's continuing to work with Smith to figure who'll pay for what in the upcoming months.

At some point, you've just got to wonder if the owner will take a deep breath and say to hell with it, especially with his son, Lonie, now out of the picture.

That's the scenario owners and executives with the league's other teams dread most.

As minority owner with a reduced stake in the team, Smith certainly shouldn't be expected to pick up the tab.

FEW OPTIONS

If Glieberman and Smith aren't interested, that would leave the league and the rest of its teams with few options, and neither are good -- finance the Renegades until (if might be a better word) new ownership is found, or fold the team and blow up the 2006 schedule.

It's a bleak picture.

It's not fair to the fans who have already endured this agony with the Rough Riders a decade ago.

It's not fair to the players who thought they'd have a spot to hang their hats and earn a living this summer.

So the wheels just keep on spinning, and the mud just keeps getting thicker.


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