Take a look at the reliable winners throughout the history of professional sports and you’ll notice a consistent trend: stable ownership and management.
In Canada, there is no better example than the Robert Wetenhall-Larry Smith-Jim Popp era of the Montreal Alouettes.
During the trio’s tenure, ostensibly from 1997 through Smith’s second departure following the 2010 season, the Als won 164 regular-season games, 11 playoff games, eight Division Finals and three Grey Cups.
The club has won just 56 games, made the playoffs five times and has exactly one post-season win since Young bought it
In that time, there’s been a ton of upheaval around the CFL – in particular in Hamilton.
The Ticats’ financial savior finally came around in 2003, with tech millionaire Bob Young buying the club and giving it stability at the bank for the first time in ages.
But aside from being stable with creditors, the Young ownership era has been the model of inconsistency in the front office and a failure on the field.
The club has won just 56 games, made the playoffs five times and has exactly one post-season win since Young bought it – and that was a laughable, defence-free 52-44 overtime shootout at Montreal’s Big O last year.
CFL records since Bob Young took over the Ticats… something isn’t adding up in Steeltown.
Team W L T WIN % BC 103 58 1 0.640 MTL 101 61 0 0.623 CGY 91 69 2 0.569 SSK 84 77 1 0.522 EDM 76 85 1 0.472 TOR 73 88 1 0.453 WPG 66 95 1 0.410 HAM 56 105 1 0.348
Then there’s the Scott Mitchell situation.
Mitchell – also the president of Young’s tech company, MRX (which also manages all of the CFL’s digital properties) – was brought in as the Ticats’ boss in 2007, just in time to hijack brand-new general manager Marcel Desjardins’ rebuild plans for the club.
No one can be sure as to whether Desjardins’ strategy would have ultimately been successful, but he was released from his duties in a spectacularly shameful manner – fired by Mitchell in the press box during the last game of the season.
Desjardins was saddled with Young and Mitchell’s first great failed experiments: Charlie Taaffe & Casey Printers.
Fast-forward two seasons and everyone was gone but… Young and Mitchell.
In comes the next plan: Head coach Marcel Bellefeuille and GM Bob O’Billovitch and a pair of 9-9 seasons, followed by a step backwards to 8-10 in 2011 and Bellefeuille’s dismissal.
Then last winter, it was all parades and fireworks as Mitchell and O’Billovitch announced the revolution that was to come under new head coach George Cortez.
One 6-12 campaign later and Cortez was out the door along with O’Billovitch and now Mitchell and Young say they got the man they wanted all along: Kent Austin, who is to bring the team back from its failing ways to success… in a college stadium an hour away from Hamilton because the Ticats have nowhere to play next year.
Could you imagine how it must feel to be George Cortez? You’re given a mandate to lead a team on the field by a GM who doesn’t know his boss would prefer someone else in the job and canned after one season for failing to deliver on a cast of players you barely had any time to develop?
Imagine what it’s like to be Marcel Desjardins? You’re given a mandate to rebuild a team and you’re canned during a game at the end of your first full season?
How about Marcel Bellefeuille? Charlie Taaffe? Or even Casey Printers, Kevin Glenn, and a whole host of other players who were crowned and cast away in a heartbeat?
The 2013 season is, by definition, going to be a summer of transition for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats’ organization: The team will be playing its home games in Guelph, ON, while a new stadium is built on the grounds of Ivor Wynne Stadium.
Mitchell has mercifully said 2013 will be his last as team president and that he’ll step aside once the stadium is built.
If Austin is given more than five seconds to actually build the club from the ground-up into a competitor, maybe the Ticats will have a fighting chance at being competitive in the near future.
If Austin stumbles out of the blocks, however, who would be surprised to see him get the boot and for Mitchell and Young to come up with the next “this is the guy we wanted all along” scenario?