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Canadian Football League officials will arrive at the Ottawa Renegades' offices today, seeking first-hand indications that the club is ready to kick off in 2006.
League officials are expected to complete a thorough inventory of the team's video and football equipment, but the timing of the visit is intriguing and suggests that progress has been made in selling the troubled club. Since last week, the league has been shopping the Renegades to prospective buyers, knowing that a transaction would have to be closed quickly or the team wouldn't play football this season.
It is believed that head coach John Jenkins and his staff were told this weekend that they would not be coaching this season. It is unclear whether that means a would-be owner wants them removed or if it is because the team won't play in 2006.
"It is part of doing our homework," league spokeswoman Alexis Redmond said yesterday. "The commissioner has mentioned that there are parties we are talking to, and we certainly want to have accurate information."
Although the CFL owns the Renegades' trademarks, the equipment belongs to team owners Bernie Glieberman and Bill Smith, and there would be little reason for the league to familiarize itself with the number of helmets and VCRs unless someone was asking for that information or unless the league wanted to disseminate that information.
The deadline for a decision about the Renegades is April 4, but there is some flexibility in either direction. If significant progress is made with a prospective purchaser, the deadline could be extended. If no serious discussions are held by the end of this week, a decision to suspend the team's 2006 operations could come sooner.
Several sources have confirmed there is interest in the Renegades.
The league's biggest worry is that none of the nibbles will turn into bites quickly enough. Unless there's a sale in the next two weeks, the CFL would suspend Ottawa's operations, proceed with an eight-team schedule, and attempt to revive the Renegades under new ownership in 2007.
The league sought permission to check the inventory with former Renegades president Lonie Glieberman and club consultant Phil Kershaw.
"All we can gather is, if they are talking to potential buyers, they want to make sure all the equipment is there," Glieberman said.
If, for example, the Renegades had 65 helmets and needed 75 for training camp, scheduled to start in May, that is a matter that would not be viewed as an impediment to kicking off. If no buyer was on the horizon, it wouldn't much matter how many helmets were available until 2007.
However, if a potential buyer and the league are getting down to details, lawyers would want an exact number of helmets, not an estimate.
Whomever the league is talking to about the Renegades, it is not Florida businessman Glenn Straub, who denied interest in an interview yesterday.
The owner of the Miami Arena and the Palm Beach Polo & Country Club has had discussions with Bernie Glieberman about a partnership, but it is believed Straub is only interested if he could relocate the team to Windsor-Detroit.
"My dad would not move the team," Lonie Glieberman said. "I know we are from Detroit, but I'll tell you my dad and I are not complicit in efforts to move the team, regardless what it looks like."
The league would not answer yesterday when asked if keeping the team in Ottawa was a prerequisite for a would-be buyer, but Straub effectively eliminated himself.
Meanwhile, Hamilton Tiger-Cats owner Bob Young yesterday clarified a remark he made to a newspaper last week, saying he was not interested in the Renegades.
Last week, Young told the Hamilton Spectator he would not eliminate any potential solution for the Renegades, even when he was asked about his own interest.
"To be very clear, I did not say I am interested," Young said.
Redmond said the CFL's constitution did not contain anything prohibiting one individual from owning more than one team. In most leagues, bylaws prohibit that because it is viewed as a potential conflict of interest.