D-day for Argos, Braley

TERRY KOSHAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:49 AM ET

The day of reckoning has come for the Argonauts.

At the Canadian Football League board of governors meeting in West Palm Beach, Fla., it is expected that the board will approve the sale of the team to David Braley from David Cynamon and Howard Sokolowski.

Cynamon and Sokolowski did not want to sell the Argos, but year after year of losing money became too much. To that end, they spent the majority of the winter trying to bring in a new partner, approaching TSN as well as Edmonton Oilers owner Daryl Katz, but were rebuffed.

Katz did have interest, but when the Oilers went in the tank on the ice this season, he backed off.

When it became apparent in the past few weeks that no partner was going to be found, Cynamon and Sokolowski turned to Braley, who had been making loans to the pair since they brought the Argos out of bankruptcy in 2003.

The two did not want to bring Braley on as a partner, so the only other way for him to take over was to try to sell him the team. A source several weeks ago told the Toronto Sun that Braley either wanted his money, said to be approximately $6.2 million, from Cynamon and Sokolowski, or the club.

It’s thought that in the small chance Braley walks away, Cynamon and Sokolowski will keep the team.

Braley owns the B.C. Lions, but CFL commissioner Mark Cohon has said in the past he has no problem with one person owning two teams.

There is nothing in the CFL constitution that says that can’t happen, and if the board had a true concern, there’s no way it would approve the deal. Still, the optics are bad.

If Braley really wants to improve the Argos, why not just move Lions general manager/coach Wally Buono to Toronto? What about Lions defensive co-ordinator Mike Benevides, who turned the Argos down last year?

With Braley poised to officially take over, there finally should be some answers regarding a new head coach and the future of general manager Adam Rita. President Bob Nicholson has been a patient man through all of this, and one can imagine he wants nothing more than to get a coach in place.

Cynamon and Sokolowski have been solid owners for the Argos, but they have done the hardcore fans no favours in the past few months by leaving them in the dark. The two refused all interview requests, and if they were unwilling to let Argos supporters completely in on their search for a partner, that’s fine. But it would have done them well to be a little more transparent, and if they really did care as much as they have been privately saying they did, sharing that with the fans would not have been a bad idea.

Once Braley gets control, he and Nicholson face the challenge of trying to lure back fans who felt alienated by Cynamon and Sokolowski. More than a few season ticket holders are miffed that Cynamon and Sokolowski appear to have abandoned a club that is 7-29 in the past two seasons, missing the playoffs both years.

It’s intriguing, however, that some season-ticket holders renewed in mid-December when Bart Andrus, whose one and only season as head coach was a complete failure, was fired. For some, ownership clearly only is part of the picture.

Braley has been known to let his management and coaches do their thing, but there’s no doubt about his passion, and he holds his people accountable. Still, he can be a stingy owner, and it’s probably no coincidence that Scott Milanovich was offered no more than a reported $190,000 by the Argos, a sum that would have made him the lowest-paid coach in the league.

It’s not known whether Braley would keep both the Lions and Argos indefinitely, put the Lions in trust for his sons to run or try to find a buyer for one or the other.

But at long last, the waters appear to be somewhat smoother for the Boatmen. Whether the ship can be salvaged in time for a successful 2010 season likely will be Braley’s biggest challenge.


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