Melnyk is only real hope for Renegades

DON BRENNAN -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 9:04 AM ET

Bye, bye, Bernie. Over to You, Gene Melnyk.

CFL commissioner Tom Wright spared time for the national media after announcing an agreement with Bernie Glieberman and Bill Smith to find new ownership for the Renegades yesterday, but the Q & A was kept to 15 or 20 minutes and ended with questions still in the queue.

Had Wright not been in such a hurry to beat the rush hour traffic in Toronto or prep for his spot on Prime Time Sports with Bob McCown, he would have had plenty more tap dancing to do.

Would have been interesting to hear him get around this: "When was the last time the pro football team in Ottawa finished a season in the black?"

The honest answer: Possibly, 30-35 years ago. Probably longer. And maybe never.

Wonder how many millionaires would get up and leave the table after being told the business opportunity being presented them is unlikely to ever make a buck?

That is why the only hope for the Renegades' survival now rests with a billionaire (or borderline billionaire), and one in particular.

Senators/Scotiabank Place owner Eugene Melnyk has to be your knight in shining armor, football fans. He has the deep pockets. He has the golden touch. He has the infrastructure in place. He has the corporate support.

And he has the mailing list.

Personally, I'd sell him Frank Clair Stadium and the Civic Centre if that's what it took, knowing the way he prefers the lock and stock to go along with the barrel.

One thing seems certain -- if anybody can get fans back to FCS, it would be the guy who has hockey-mad Ottawa forgiving and forgetting a year-long NHL shutdown to the tune of 29 sellouts; the man who has the Senators that league's hottest property, on and off the ice.

Melnyk already has the necessary staff in place. He owns CapitalTickets.ca, which prints and pushes stubs for Senators, Renegades and 67's games, as well as numerous shows.

In short, he has the "synergies" to make it work.

Wright said yesterday he has not talked with Melnyk about the Renegades but indicated he will.

"When you've got committed leadership making the right decisions, you're a success," Wright told McCown.

"Eugene has obviously shown those expertise."

WRIGHT OF REFUSAL

Wright refused to tell conference callers what the asking price is for the Renegades (go figure), but earlier yesterday Lonie Glieberman demanded the retraction of a published report saying the team had $2 million in outstanding debt and expenses owing, adding that it is up to date in all bills and expenses.

Wright also refused to get into too much detail about "options" the league will explore over the next 2-3 weeks, when it makes its final decision on what to do with Ottawa. He also wished to "turn the page" when asked whether he made a mistake in allowing Glieberman back in the CFL, although he lingered with that motion on Prime Time.

"I take responsibility," he said. "Clearly, 10 months later, it wasn't the right decision."

Wright's right about this fiasco belonging on his plate.

If only the Renegades could have built off the successful 2004 Grey Cup here; if only Wright had insisted that Randy Gillies and Bill Smith settle their differences and sell the team in mid- December, when Glieberman was poised for purchase, rather than wait until the eve of the 2005 training camp. Those five months during the off-season could have given him a fighting chance.

As is, Bernie was still pumped about forging onward as recently as February, when he quietly pursued quarterback Doug Flutie and was prepared to pay him $1 million a season to finish his career in Ottawa. That was before his "consultants" convinced him he had to get rid of his son (and team president) Lonie and his friend (and GM) Forrest Gregg, and that the team would lose more than $5 million this year.

When George Hudson, Josh Ranek then Pascal Cheron rejected extremely generous offers to sign in Hamilton, Bernie was told the team would be hopeless, winning no more than three games. And when Smith made it clear he wanted out, and Glieberman's initial search for another investor came up empty, he suddenly had no interest in carrying on.

WON'T COVER LOSSES

Yesterday, when governors rejected his offer to cover $3 million of losses in 2006 (by the way, that nay should tell you there's no way the CFL could possibly run the team this season, despite Wright's suggestion that it is one of the options), Glieberman said he'd stay on as a 25% owner, if the league wanted.

You can bet that won't be happening.

No, this is it for the Glieberman era. It's bye, bye Bernie, and over to you, Gene.

It's you, or else, too-dle-oo Renegades.


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