'Gades sacked by CFL

BARRE CAMPBELL -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 8:42 AM ET

Turn out the lights. The party's over for the Ottawa Renegades.

The latest chapter of the Canadian Football League in the nation's capital was put out of its misery yesterday afternoon by the league and the governors of its eight other teams, leaving a swath of sorrow among players, coaches, alumni.

And most importantly, the fans.

The league suspended operations of the beleaguered club for the 2006 season, looking toward a possible rebirth of the franchise under new ownership in 2007.

"It'll take as long as it takes to get it right," said CFL commissioner Tom Wright, who himself is in jeopardy of losing his job because of the Renegades' failure.

Wright was on vacation in the Dominican Republic in early March -- even after stating there was "a sense of urgency" in Ottawa -- when news surfaced that Renegades majority owner Bernie Glieberman wanted to dump the franchise.

"If it takes a year, terrific. It it takes two, terrific. The point is, we can only do it if we can do it right."

Several groups approached the league about saving the Renegades, but Wright said time simply ran out for an owner to be put in place for the upcoming season.

Training camps begin on May 21, and the Renegades were to begin their fifth season in the league June 24 in Edmonton.

"In the end, we didn't have the luxury of a long period of time for the groups to do due diligence or even a proper business plan," said Wright, who termed the decision to suspend operations of the Renegades "difficult, but the right one."

"I'm confident we'll continue the process. We now have the luxury of time to find that right owner."

Wright said the governors considered keeping the Renegades alive this season by funding the club's losses and even having the team play all its home games on the road, but decided not to take that route.

"There was a lot of consideration," said Wright. "We spent many hours discussing all those things."

The news didn't come as a shock, but still caused anguish among many who were associated with the franchise which first hit the field in 2002.

"I just have a sense of incredible sadness," said former Renegades GM Eric Tillman. "I feel so badly for the fans, for the players, for the coaches, and the support staff, people who don't get their names in the paper but work so hard behind the scenes.

"Collectively, they all deserved much better than this."

The league will hold a dispersal draft of Renegades players next week, before the April 20 Canadian college draft.

"You kind of plan for it in a sense, but when it comes out it hits you hard," said receiver and Ottawa native Pat Woodcock. "There are a lot of people hurt by this situation."

Reached at the airport in New Orleans, quarterback Kerry Joseph said he'll feel strange wearing another team's colours in 2006.

"But I just know that the fans are going to be so disappointed," he said. "The fan base is there. If I could tell them anything, it would be just to stay positive."

But linebacker Jason Kralt doubts Ottawa football fans, who endured five years of no CFL when the Rough Riders folded after the 1996 season will be so willing to forgive being burned a second time.

"I think it's a combination of so many losing seasons, erratic ownership and the fans just having enough," said Kralt. "I have to say that I can't blame them, because here we go again."

The league announced on March 22 it was seeking a buyer for the franchise after Glieberman and minority shareholder Bill Smith agreed to a sale.

The club had been in turmoil during the off-season with abysmal season ticket sales and sponsorship renewals under the leadership of Lonie Glieberman, the owner's son, who spent most of the winter running ski resorts in northern Michigan.

"It's really, really sad. Sad to see it happen," said Lonie Glieberman last night. "It's dramatically bad news. It was my management that caused this. I'm responsible for people losing their jobs and I'm responsible for the city of Ottawa losing its football team."

The demise of the 'Gades led the league to cancel the Touchdown Atlantic exhibition game in Halifax between Ottawa and the Montreal Alouettes. A new game and TV schedule has also been issued, including a move of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers to the East Division.


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