Place 'Gades on road to recovery

The Ottawa Renegades. (SUN/Sean Kilpatrick)

The Ottawa Renegades. (SUN/Sean Kilpatrick)

DON BRENNAN -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 12:51 PM ET

The minute flag is up on the CFL's attempt to find an owner for the Renegades as, by the end of next week, the league will/better announce its intentions for the orphaned Ottawa franchise.

Let this be a little reminder to expect the unexpected.

The search for somebody to take over the wheel immediately is 21/2 weeks old and looked to be stuck in the mud again until rumblings from out west yesterday that Calgary businessman Bruce Urban -- originally uncovered as an interested party by the Sun's Barre Campbell -- remains the only bidder still willing to assume control in time for the 2006 season.

Should negotiations fall through with anybody at this stage, meanwhile, and the league will almost certainly have to begin focusing on finding an Ottawa owner for 2007. Talk is a number of candidates would then emerge, or re-emerge, as we're still not convinced Eugene Melnyk wouldn't add a football franchise to his empire, given time to get a house in order.

So what to do with the jerseys and those who wear them until then? The worst idea would be to "mothball" operations for a year and hold a dispersal draft of Renegades players.

The team, as is, has a decent core. There's Jason Armstead, Brad Banks, Yo Murphy, Korey Banks, Kerry Joseph, Markus Howell, Val St. Germain, Kyries Hebert and a number of others who are at different stages of the development process started here in 2002. Under the proper guidance, the 'Gades could win 10 or 11 games in 2007.

Lose these guys now and you're starting from scratch all over again. That means the all-too familiar growing pains and another three-to-five-year building plan.

Know the lyrics to that achy-breaky country song by heart? Of course. You've lived them.

No, much better for long-suffering Ottawa fans and the league itself to keep the Renegades alive on life support. To that, we followed up with the CFL head office yesterday an idea first floated by veteran Toronto Sun football writer Perry Lefko.

Should the pursuit of an owner for 2006 fall short, will the league consider funding the Renegades and having the team play all its games on the road this season?

"Consideration is being given to various ideas and options under all scenarios," CFL spokeswoman Alexis Redmond stated. "The concept was tabled as one of many. I am not certain whether it is still on the roster of options."

It is still very much on the "roster of options," an insider confirmed yesterday.

In fact, unless significant progress on a deal was made yesterday, governors are likely to discuss the possibility in detail during a conference call this weekend. There are drawbacks to such an unprecedented prop job, of course.

Sleeves have to be rolled up. Adjustments have to be made. More stadium dates have to be booked, as well as travel plans and hotel rooms. There's the division and distribution of revenues, and different playoff scenarios and oh, don't forget about the players' association.

The P.A. is not going to like the idea of 40 members having to play on the road 18 times a year -- unless it does some extra math and concludes that maybe about half the Renegades roster would wind up with other teams, and that 20 or so others would therefore become unemployed.

Why would putting up with the ridicule for having a homeless team make sense to the league?

Well, let's guess that running the Renegades this way would cost each team in the neighbourhood of $600,000 --give or take a quarter-mil. Let's guess that the Montreal Alouettes, who draw 20,000 fans every game, charge an average of $35 per ticket. That's an extra $700,000 that the Als wouldn't normally bring in.

Again, there's an unevenness to deal with, as the Hamilton Ticats are scheduled to play in the nation's capital twice this season. But surely, details can be worked out and would be worked out eagerly when the alternative might be to lose the Ottawa market for good.

Theory is the league could hire an Al Ford or Paul Robson or Mike McCarthy to run the administration side, something they all have experience doing. Robson and McCarthy have even worked in Ottawa, one as a president and the other a GM, and both know the market.

Eric Tillman remains the popular and most sensible choice as Renegades GM, and not just because he's qualified, he's here and he's able to begin work tomorrow. The league knows it and preaches it.

But first, the league has to make the necessary decision. If there's no owner for the Renegades now, the CFL has to run the club -- even if it's only until July or August -- until somebody steps in to take over.

If that means Ottawa has to play all its games on the road in 2006, so be it.

The alternative is much worse.

DON.BRENNAN@OTT.SUNPUB.COM


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