Argonauts' off-field woes spell trouble for franchise and CFL

The Toronto Argonauts play in Canada's largest market but struggle to be relevant in the country's...

The Toronto Argonauts play in Canada's largest market but struggle to be relevant in the country's biggest city. (Reuters)

Bill Lankhof, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:16 PM ET

For the Canadian Football League, the Toronto Argonauts are an anomaly; existing as a cornerstone franchise, and, as its albatross.

Without a Toronto franchise the league loses its biggest market, reducing its prestige and influence to a regional, parochial scope.

With this Toronto franchise, it also has a headache.

As currently comprised, the Argonauts are the CFL’s problem child; a thorn in a bed of rose petals.

Everywhere, outside of Toronto, there is good news.

The league has a new collective-bargaining agreement and labour certainty.

New stadiums gleam on the landscapes, from Regina to Winnipeg and Hamilton.

There is more TV money than ever.

In Ottawa, a new franchise, has taken root — even if they can’t figure out what to call themselves. Red? Black? Who cares. Just colour them happy and relevant to the community.

Even with the Argonauts, on the field, there is light over the horizon. Despite a 1-2 record, and some uneven performances, the home opener win over Saskatchewan is described by club CEO and president, Chris Rudge, as perhaps the best game he’s seen the team play since owner David Braley passed him the franchise’s failing torch in January of 2012.

As long as Ricky Ray stays in the pocket, and out of the hands of doctors and marauding linebackers, this is a lineup with a chance to rule a mediocre Eastern side of the CFL.

Management has signed stars such as Chad Owens and Andre Durie long-term, they have a respected coaching staff in place, including a young head coach who has already taken them on a Grey Cup joyride.

No. 1 draft pick Anthony Coombs is drawing raves.

So, what’s not to like?

A darker side of reality reveals that the Argonauts’ biggest problems are off the field; have been for years, and they appear no closer to being solved now then when Sherwood Schwarz was calling the audibles almost two decades ago.

The Argonauts are orphans of the sports world — abandoned by a preoccupied owner who’s heart lies elsewhere.


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