Clock is ticking

PAUL FRIESEN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:44 AM ET

The deadline is approaching, and still no deal.

By the middle of this month, if we can believe the whispers -- the end of December, at the latest -- David Asper needs to have a stadium deal in place if he wants to take over the community-owned Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

The deadline is contained in a letter of intent agreed to by Asper and the team's board of directors nearly six months ago.

Which raises a very interesting scenario going into the most critical off-season in this franchise's history.

What if Asper can't get all his ducks in a row by the time we flip the calendar on 2007?

We know he hasn't yet convinced the feds to cough up $40 million of the stadium's $120 million price tag. Some would argue he'd have an easier time getting blood out of a stone.

Chances are the deadline will come and go without a deal.

Which means the Bombers board would have a decision on its hands: kill the proposal and move to Plan B, likely a major stadium renovation, or extend the deadline.

Bet on the latter.

If we know anything about deadlines, particularly those surrounding the construction of new sports facilities in this town, we know they're not exactly set in stone. More like Jell-o.

Besides, who'd want to be remembered by football fans as the board member who killed the new stadium?

Certainly not chairman Ken Hildahl, who won't even consider a Plan B.

"Our focus or attention is on making this work," Hildahl said yesterday.

So this thing could drag well into the New Year: Asper saying he's getting closer, the Bombers waiting a little longer.

There comes a time, though, when this fishing expedition has to either reel in the big one, or cut bait.

FLOATING IN THE AIR

Because whether the Bombers brass admits it or not, it can't be business as usual, not with the organization's very structure floating in the air like a bad punt.

If it were business as usual, president/CEO Lyle Bauer would already be discussing contract extensions with GM Brendan Taman and head coach Doug Berry, both of whom are believed to be entering the final year of their contracts.

Neither deserves to be a lame duck in '08, not after building a team that was five points from a Grey Cup victory.

"They're too important to our future, regardless of the ownership structure, to ignore," Hildahl said. "They have the confidence of everyone, moving forward. They did a hell of a job."

But you can't reward them without passing it by Asper's desk, first. That's another proviso in the letter of intent.

"Any movement we would make with respect to people would certainly be vetted with him," Bauer confirmed. "Because that's part of our obligation under the due diligence process and in terms of the letter of intent ... keeping the party who has an interest informed and up to speed."

Makes sense.

Look at it another way, though, and it appears Asper is already calling the shots. Or, at least, he has something resembling a veto on the most critical decisions this off-season.

That's not healthy for a GM who wasn't even allowed to listen to an offer from the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. It's not healthy for a head coach who's making far less than head coaches who didn't even reach the Grey Cup.

And it's not fair to the people who currently own this team: you.

I'm not questioning Asper's motives or painting Taman and/or Berry as being unhappy.

Uncertainty at the top, though, is never a good thing.

It hasn't hurt this team, yet.

But I wouldn't push my luck.


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