Where the Ottawa Renegades go from here was the question on minds around the Canadian Football League yesterday.
Following the departure of team president Lonie Glieberman, some saw opportunity, but most saw a fragile franchise headed towards an ownership change.
Majority owner Bernie Glieberman cancelled an overseas trip in order to meet with CFL commissioner Tom Wright in Toronto next week to deal with the club's problems.
The Renegades are heading into uncharted waters, and it's likely that everything is on the table, including ownership.
Glieberman is waffling, looking for a sign of faith from a grumpy Ottawa fan base, while Bill Smith, the minority partner whose links to the franchise date back to the expansion era, is believed to be soap-opera weary and seeking resolution before he becomes responsible for financial losses.
Under the deal Smith struck with Glieberman last spring, the latter agreed to fully fund the team for 2005 in exchange for organizational say. Smith acquired a 49-per-cent stake that was diluted when Glieberman covered the financial losses last year, but Smith was set to assume some of the losses in 2006.
Smith's dissent has been known since August, and it is believed he will not simply be appeased with the removal of Lonie Glieberman as team president. Should his voice or ownership share in the Renegades rise, a full house-cleaning could be in order, one that would include consultants John Lisowski and Phil Kershaw, general manager Forrest Gregg and head coach John Jenkins.
Conversely, if Smith decides he wants out, Bernie Glieberman's pending decision becomes one of whether to go it alone.
Yesterday, CFL commissioner Tom Wright was working on the premise that Glieberman would remain as majority owner and quickly address the power void left in his son's wake.
"Both Bill and Bernie understand the sense of urgency to bring clarity and stability there," Wright said. "Our position is we want to make sure an efficient organization is in place."
Smith and the league office want the current structure, headed by Lisowski and Kershaw, changed as soon as possible. Wright said he wanted no issues lingering come training camp, preventing the kind of messy aftershocks that followed Glieberman's purchase of the team last May.
The league office and governors have at least verbal assurances from Glieberman that he will unconditionally fund the team through 2006, even if he decides he no longer wants to own the club.
Beyond that there is much uncertainty.
Smith is not willing to assume total financial responsibility for the team, but he could be convinced to take on decision-making authority and work with the league to find a partner for 2007.
Otherwise, a search for the Renegades' white knight would begin.
Smith and Lonie Glieberman are also pushing Bernie Glieberman to hire former general manager Eric Tillman, who left the Renegades after his contract expired in 2004, and a new chief executive officer.
Smith supported Bob Nicholson when the Washington Nationals executive was offered the Renegades' chief executive post in 2003.
Nicholson turned the job down and it eventually went to Lisowski, who left the team last year.
Around the league, optimists hope Bernie Glieberman brings about credible changes to the team's business and football sides.
Ideally, Smith is appeased, no refinancing is necessary and everyone is left with a sense that the franchise is being rebuilt by parties who can co-exist.
Others were decrying the sale of the Renegades to Glieberman last year as "pennywise and pound-foolish," demoralized that his tenure was on the verge of collapse in less than 12 months.