'Gades future looks dim

BY , JIM BENDER -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 11:42 AM ET

Speculation abounds that the CFL board of governors will suspend the cash-strapped Ottawa Renegades franchise for one year when it meets in Toronto today.

If true, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers may move back into the East Division, although some would prefer to see a single division eight-team league.

Suspending the club would also mean a dispersal draft of Renegades players, a revamping of the CFL schedule and changing the TV lineup.

Then there would be yet another negative impression left on what many still consider a bush league.

Keeping the franchise afloat would allow for some continuity in both the fan and player base in Ottawa. Should it shut down and return after a season, teams would then be subject to an expansion draft.

"We'll have to make a tough decision," Bombers chairperson Ken Hildahl said yesterday. "I'm still not optimistic but we'll see what happens (today)."

Both Hildahl and club president/CEO Lyle Bauer will attend today's session. Hildahl said the CFL is still talking to prospective purchasers who may be willing to take over the Ottawa franchise in time for this season.

"As you know, one group (Golden Gate Capital) pulled out last week but there are others," said Hildahl.

But a well-placed source claimed that there is only "a one-in-100 chance the club will be bought."

"Is it likely? Probably not," Hildahl said. "Is the door shut? No."

IN LIMBO

The future of the franchise has been in limbo ever since controversial owner Bernie Glieberman -- the one who saved the club the year before -- decided to pull out.

Hildahl also expects the board to discuss the possibility of the league propping up the franchise for a year.

"That would be on the agenda and we (Bombers) would support it in the right scenario but that would depend on the finances," he explained. "If we had to do whatever it takes to keep it going, then probably not."

The Bombers and other league members paid to keep the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Toronto Argonauts afloat in recent seasons at a significant cost to their bottom lines, and the Bombers are still operating on a deficit.

"Our preference is to keep a team in Ottawa and, in the long run, we are committed to a franchise in Ottawa," Hildahl said. "It should be an interesting meeting."

The whole situation could also affect the future of CFL commissioner Tom Wright and may also have a negative effect on Winnipeg's hosting of this year's Grey Cup.


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