'Gades gone for '06

PERRY LEFKO -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:27 AM ET

The Ottawa Renegades have joined their predecessor in the graveyard of Canadian Football League franchises.

The Renegades, who resurfaced in Ottawa in 2002, six years after the Rough Riders succumbed after years of shoddy ownership, received the last rites for 2006 yesterday from the CFL board of governors. They left open the possibility of the team returning next season.

Following a day of talks at a Toronto hotel and a gag order placed on team owners and governors -- one of whom balked when a photographer took his picture -- embattled commissioner Tom Wright indicated the Renegades were taken off life support.

Only five months ago, he painted a rosy picture of growth in the CFL -- with significant gains in attendance, sponsorship, television ratings and the prospect of expansion at some point. This time it was the grim reality of a franchise that had failed -- again -- and wouldn't be resuscitated with funds from the other eight teams or a new ownership group.

"What it says now is that instead of making a short-term decision to prop up, if you will, the franchise in Ottawa, the league is strong enough that it can make a strong decision," Wright said. "And the strong decision is to get it right or don't do it. Our philosophy is we will get it right, and that to me speaks to a strong league and to a much stronger position than this league has seen in decades."

The CFL had numerous individuals or groups interested in taking over the team from owners Bernie Glieberman and Bill Smith, who were together only a year. Glieberman and his son, Lonie, took over the team last May when no other owners stepped forward.

Smith remained the only member of the previous ownership group, which came in with enthusiasm and ideas in 2002 and then slowly splintered.

The Gliebermans had a bad reputation from their initial ownership foray in Ottawa from 1991 to 1993 and then two years afterward in Shreveport.

It took the Gliebermans only a short while to anger the limited fan base with questionable marketing strategies and hirings. Two advisers recommended to the elder Glieberman earlier this year that he remove his son as team president for the good of the club. The elder Glieberman subsequently lost his passion to fully finance the Renegades. In turn, the league had to find an owner quickly or shelve the franchise.

"In the end it was a question of not having enough time to put the right organization in place for the 2006 season," Wright said.

"We've made some terrific progress, I would tell you, and that we will continue discussions with many of those groups for 2007. Obviously we feel very strongly about the Ottawa region as a viable CFL market. Our numbers show that. Our research has shown that and we are moving forward with that intent.

"I can't guarantee anything, but what I can guarantee is we will do our homework properly ... and we will only bring new ownership in when that ownership is the right group."

The CFL will conduct a dispersal draft of Ottawa's roster later this week. Controversial first-year head coach John Jenkins and his staff are expected to be given buyout packages by Bernie Glieberman, who wants to honour that commitment.

The 2,000 season-ticket holders will have their money refunded.

The plans for a second pre-season game in Halifax has been scrapped, while a new schedule has been unveiled, which includes Winnipeg moving to the East.


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