Bombers prez looks to improve

KIRK PENTON -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 12:33 PM ET

Lyle Bauer sounds like he's sick of talking about money.

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers president and CEO has had cash on the brain ever since he re-joined the team back in 2000, working his tail off to get the Blue and Gold out of debt.

Now the Bombers appear to be at a crossroads in their debt-reduction plan. With the team struggling to a 5-13 record and the Grey Cup being played at Canad Inns Stadium next November, do they mortgage the future to field a winner?

EMPTY THE VAULT

Most fans would love for Bauer to empty the vault, but he swears it's not all about the money. He said there are many improvements his club needs to make that don't involve cold, hard cash.

No one disagrees with him there.

"If it was always just money, the (New York) Rangers or the (New York) Yankees would win every year," Bauer said. "Now, their odds are pretty damn good; we're not foolish enough to think they're not.

"(But) you have to identify and find the right people and the character that you want on your football team, and then you have to go get it."

Getting it may sound simple, but everyone knows it isn't. The Bombers went after several free agents last season, but the best one they came up with (Wane McGarity) was cut just six weeks into the season.

Bauer noted that the football operations side of the club has received a good chunk of the team's revenues over the past five seasons, so it's not an issue of giving it more money.

He sounded downright perturbed when asked if the club was going to "loosen its purse strings" this winter when the free-agent chase begins. He said that question implies that the Bombers are sitting on a pot of gold, which they're not.

"We've increased our revenues by $4-million, and it's no secret that from 2000 to 2004 our football ops (budget) went up by 1.8-million bucks," Bauer said. "So the myth that we don't spend the money ... that's a myth.

"Are we keeping pace with other ones? Well, I guess you can read into that what you want."

It's obvious that the Bombers have trouble keeping pace with the rest of the CFL. Their failure to land Arland Bruce III in September 2004, when he signed with the Toronto Argonauts instead, is a testament to that.

It's going to be even more difficult in February, because the Bombers are poised to lose somewhere in the neighbourhood of $300,000 this year. And Bauer doesn't sound ready to destroy the club's financial stability he has built up just because of one Grey Cup in his own backyard.

The one thing he repeatedly vowed to do yesterday is look at every possible way to improve, which currently includes determining the futures of head coach Jim Daley and GM Brendan Taman.

"We've committed to do the things we need to do to improve our football team, and that commitment can take many, many shapes and forms," Bauer said.

"Money's one of them. Absolutely. We've spent everything and then some of what we've brought in as far as increasing our revenues.

"But that's not the only way you build a championship."


Videos

Photos