Melnyk Gades only Hope & tons more**

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CFL commissioner Tom Wright announced Wednesday the league has reached an agreement with current Renegades owners Bernie Glieberman and Bill Smith to put the troubled franchise up for sale. Wright, board chairman Tom Robinson of the Saskatchewan Roughriders and B.C. Lions owner David Braley will head up an ownership committee.

But finding a new owner won’t be easy.

Ottawa hasn’t posted a winning record since returning to the CFL in 2002 and last year reportedly lost $4 million US. With season-ticket sales having dwindled to roughly 2,000, the absence of a solid front-office infrastructure and the loss of several key free agents, the Renegades’ 2006 prospects indeed look dim, with estimates the club could lose up to $6 million.

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A logical ownership candidate would be Toronto businessman Eugene Melnyk, the owner of the NHL’s Ottawa Senators. Wright admitted he hasn’t spoken to Melnyk, who whenever contacted about the Renegades has always been non-commital about any interest he might have in the CFL club.

“I have not spoken to Eugene Melnyk, that’s the short answer,” Wright said during a conference call. “As we go forward in the process we will be having opportunities to speak with perspective individuals.”

Yet with Smith no longer wishing to absorb any losses and Glieberman only willing to ante up $2.5 million, the CFL really had little choice but to start looking for new ownership. In the meantime, Glieberman and Smith will bankroll the club’s day-to-day operations, although no season tickets will sold until the club’s long-term future is decided.

“The fans in Ottawa do deserve to have clarity,” Wright said. “We will be committing over the next several weeks to making that decision.”

“We will be in a better position in early April to make that final determination. That’s when the fans in Ottawa will find out.”

Trouble is, that gives the CFL just three weeks to achieve a best-case scenario. If new ownership can’t be found, then governors must decide whether to use league monies to keep Ottawa afloat while searching for a new owner, suspend the club’s operations for a year, or simply fold the team.

And Wright wouldn’t offer any guarantees regarding the Renegades’ long-term future if new ownership can’t be found.

“What you want to be guaranteed of is we want to do this right,” he said. “If those right conditions aren’t there, then we wouldn’t do what is not right for the fans or for our league.”

Two years ago, the CFL bankrolled both the Toronto Argonauts and Hamilton Tiger-Cats for an entire season until new local ownership could be found. The result has been a resounding success as both the Argos and Ticats have seen their attendance double since then.

But in a league where one team - generally regarded as the Edmonton Eskimos - makes money, many franchises can’t afford to spend the $200,000 to $500,000 each it would take to ensure the Renegades make it through the season. The prospect of folding Ottawa, and dividing league dispersal money just eight ways instead of nine, could actually be looked upon more favourably.

However, the decision to fold a franchise isn’t one the league can take lightly. Some of the CFL’s corporate sponsorships and its TV deal are based upon nine teams, not eight, and Ottawa’s departure would negatively impact those deals.

“We have some contractual clauses that require us to re-look at an agreement or to have some adjustments,” Wright said. “We have full visibility on those and have been in contact with our partners and will be in a better position to understand the full impact.”

“We feel that we will be able to manage that process and do what’s right for our partners and our fans.”

There’s also the issue of what Ottawa’s departure from the CFL would do to the league’s long-term vision of one day expanding into the Maritimes to become a balanced, coast-to-coast league. Ottawa is scheduled to face Montreal in the league’s second annual Touchdown Atlantic exhibition game at Husky Stadium in Halifax in June.

This is also the second Ottawa ownership crisis in as many years and marks the third time a club operated by the Glieberman has had trouble staying operational. Glieberman first came into the CFL in the 1990s as the owner of the Ottawa Rough Riders before starting up the expansion Shreveport Pirates.

There were many throughout the CFL who questioned Wright’s decision to bring the Gliebermans, Bernie and his son, Lonie, back to Ottawa last season. And it wasn’t long before those concerns were realized, first by the Gliebermans bringing in family friend Forrest Gregg, a Pro Football Hall of Famer who’d been out of the game for more than a decade, to serve as executive vice-president of football operations.

Then there was Lonie Glieberman’s controversial Mardi Gras Madness promotion, in which women competed for a cash prize by collecting beads from male spectators using questionable means. And at season’s end, there was the messy firing of former head coach Joe Paopao and his staff with the team still competing for a playoff spot.

In the off-season, Gregg, in a phone interview with an Ottawa talk radio show, couldn’t remember the name of the team’s starting quarterback, Kerry Joseph.

Wright, in a roundabout way, admitted it was a mistake to have the Gliebermans back in the league.

“We understand the situation that occurred,” he said. “The rear-view mirror an easy way to approach things.”

“Ultimately I think we just have to turn the page and look forward.”

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Well, so far we have 4 333$ from posters on this site to buy the Rens (see post Here's a fun business plan for the Renegades)... You think Glieberman would sell for this little? I am willing to thrown another 666$ if five grands do...

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YOU'D THINK the announcement that the Ottawa Renegades were once again for sale would come as bad news to fans. But at Local Heroes on Bank St., it's just the opposite.

Mike Lafleur, 34, sits at the bar, sipping a beer while munching on wings. He bought season tickets last year for him and his sons, aged six and eight.

Lafleur says Bernie Glieberman, who owns 51% of the club, and his son Lonie single-handedly ruined the franchise, forcing him to find another Sunday afternoon activity to do with the boys.

"During that Mardi Gras game, there were all kinds of girls lifting their shirts in the stands and so many drunks," he said. "I can't bring my kids to a game like that ... If they bring in new owners, I would buy tickets."

The announcement that the Gades were for sale came from the CFL yesterday morning, putting the team's 2006 season in limbo. The league is working to find a potential buyer after the team lost almost $4 million last year. Owners Bernie Glieberman and Bill Smith appear unwilling to absorb another year of losses.

'GREAT ENTERTAINMENT'

Terry McGrath has been a season ticket holder for 20 years, but that doesn't mean he'll stay loyal forever.

"I didn't get tickets for next season," he said. "It's because of the Gliebermans."

McGrath, a retiree in his mid-60s, says the team went downhill more than ever under the Gliebermans last season. He's excited at the prospect of new ownership, adding he'll buy tickets when a new owner steps in.

"It's great entertainment," he said. "It's an affordable, great way to spend a fall afternoon."

But not everyone had the foresight to avoid buying tickets. Geoff Hutchinson, 22, bought a set of 2006 tickets with a friend. Now he's worried there won't be a season.

"I could find a million other ways to waste a hundred bucks," he said.

While he says he enjoyed events such as Mardi Gras day, Hutchinson welcomes new ownership.

"If a guy like (Senators owner Eugene) Melnyk steps in, he'll pay to get the good players and the team will be a competitor," he said.

OTTAWA FOOTBALL OWNERSHIP WOES

  • Oct. 17, 1991: Bernie Glieberman purchases the Rough Riders from the CFL and appoints son Lonie club president.

  • February 1994: After announcing $5.8 million in losses in the two previous seasons, Glieberman sells the franchise for $1.8 million to Bruce Firestone.

  • 1995: Chicago millionaire Horn Chen takes the helm of the bankrupt team. Two 3-15 seasons later, the Rough Riders owe more than $600,000. Revenue Canada freezes the club's assets.

  • Nov. 6, 1996: The CFL revokes the franchise.

  • Oct. 16, 2001: An investment group led by Brad Watters announces it is bringing the CFL back to Ottawa.

  • September 2004: The Gliebermans contact the Renegades about becoming partners in the team.

  • May 2005: Co-majority shareholders Bill Smith and Randy Gillies reach a settlement, paving the way for Bernie Glieberman to take over controlling interest of the Renegades. Smith acquires Gillies' 30% and Rick Baker's 10%. Smith then sells 51% of the team to Glieberman, with whom he will become partners.

  • July 2005: Club president Lonie Glieberman launches the team's infamous Mardi Gras promotion, a contest in which a female fan won $1,000 for collecting the most beaded necklaces from male fans who were given the jewelry when they entered the stadium. The promotion sparked controversy after at least one female fan lifted her shirt in the stands. The team eventually bowed to public pressure and axed the contest in late August.

  • March 22, 2006: The CFL announces the team is up for sale after losing $4 million in 2005.

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IT'S THIRD and long for the Renegades ... again

The beleaguered CFL club is on the verge of extinction following a decision by owners Bernie Glieberman and Bill Smith to dump the team.

Commissioner Tom Wright revealed that strategy, with less than two months before the start of training camp, following an emergency conference call with CFL governors yesterday.

Wright has established a committee to search for new owners. The search group includes himself, chair Tom Robinson of the Saskatchewan Roughriders, and B.C. Lions owner David Braley.

The league is considering several options, including folding the Renegades if a buyer isn't located soon.

"The fans in Ottawa do deserve to have clarity," said Wright during another conference call with reporters.

"We will be committing over the next several weeks to making that decision. We will be in a better position in early April to make that final determination. That's when the fans in Ottawa will find out."

NEED OWNER FAST

If a new owner isn't in place within the next two or three weeks, the league would likely move toward shutting down the Renegades, who were established in November of 2001 and have played four seasons in the CFL.

During a radio interview later in the evening, Wright said the league and the eight other teams would also consider financing the Renegades through the 2006 season if a buyer couldn't be found.

But that scenario is considered a long shot at best because teams would be reluctant to spend their money to finance another unstable Ottawa football project.

Perhaps the best hope for the ill-fated football fans of Ottawa rests with Eugene Melnyk.

The Senators owner answered questions about CFL ownership during a press conference on Tuesday about a bid he's leading for Ottawa to host the world junior hockey championship.

Melnyk said he hadn't been approached about taking over the Renegades, but never outright rejected the notion either.

Wright said yesterday he has not spoken to Melnyk.

"As we go forward in the process, we will be having opportunities to speak with prospective individuals," the commissioner said.

Asked about the possibility of the Renegades being operated under community ownership, Wright said he and the governors wouldn't rule it out.

"I don't think it's necessarily a non-starter," said Wright, who has been in contact this week with Ottawa Mayor Bob Chiarelli.

Among those left in the dark in the latest twist to the story are Renegades players.

"The team has been in a state of chaos for so long now that nobody really knows where to start anymore," Renegades linebacker Jason Kralt said last night.

"I know my phone will be ringing a lot in the next few days and I'll have to answer a lot of questions."

Quarterback Kerry Joseph, speaking from Orlando last night, said he feels badly for teammates and fans.

"If I could pray for one thing, it would be for something positive to come out of this," said Joseph.

Glieberman took control of 51% of the team last May in partnership with Smith, who was an original owner of the franchise when it began operations in late 2001.

The club began having ownership trouble following the 2003 season when a rift developed between Smith and another owner, Randy Gillies, over the direction of the Renegades under president Brad Watters.

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Bye, bye, Bernie. Over to You, Gene Melnyk.

CFL commissioner Tom Wright spared time for the national media after announcing an agreement with Bernie Glieberman and Bill Smith to find new ownership for the Renegades yesterday, but the Q & A was kept to 15 or 20 minutes and ended with questions still in the queue.

Had Wright not been in such a hurry to beat the rush hour traffic in Toronto or prep for his spot on Prime Time Sports with Bob McCown, he would have had plenty more tap dancing to do.

Would have been interesting to hear him get around this: "When was the last time the pro football team in Ottawa finished a season in the black?"

The honest answer: Possibly, 30-35 years ago. Probably longer. And maybe never.

Wonder how many millionaires would get up and leave the table after being told the business opportunity being presented them is unlikely to ever make a buck?

That is why the only hope for the Renegades' survival now rests with a billionaire (or borderline billionaire), and one in particular.

Senators/Scotiabank Place owner Eugene Melnyk has to be your knight in shining armor, football fans. He has the deep pockets. He has the golden touch. He has the infrastructure in place. He has the corporate support.

And he has the mailing list.

Personally, I'd sell him Frank Clair Stadium and the Civic Centre if that's what it took, knowing the way he prefers the lock and stock to go along with the barrel.

One thing seems certain -- if anybody can get fans back to FCS, it would be the guy who has hockey-mad Ottawa forgiving and forgetting a year-long NHL shutdown to the tune of 29 sellouts; the man who has the Senators that league's hottest property, on and off the ice.

Melnyk already has the necessary staff in place. He owns CapitalTickets.ca, which prints and pushes stubs for Senators, Renegades and 67's games, as well as numerous shows.

In short, he has the "synergies" to make it work.

Wright said yesterday he has not talked with Melnyk about the Renegades but indicated he will.

"When you've got committed leadership making the right decisions, you're a success," Wright told McCown.

"Eugene has obviously shown those expertise."

Wright of refusal

Wright refused to tell conference callers what the asking price is for the Renegades (go figure), but earlier yesterday Lonie Glieberman demanded the retraction of a published report saying the team had $2 million in outstanding debt and expenses owing, adding that it is up to date in all bills and expenses.

Wright also refused to get into too much detail about "options" the league will explore over the next 2-3 weeks, when it makes its final decision on what to do with Ottawa. He also wished to "turn the page" when asked whether he made a mistake in allowing Glieberman back in the CFL, although he lingered with that motion on Prime Time.

"I take responsibility," he said. "Clearly, 10 months later, it wasn't the right decision."

Wright's right about this fiasco belonging on his plate.

If only the Renegades could have built off the successful 2004 Grey Cup here; if only Wright had insisted that Randy Gillies and Bill Smith settle their differences and sell the team in mid- December, when Glieberman was poised for purchase, rather than wait until the eve of the 2005 training camp. Those five months during the off-season could have given him a fighting chance.

As is, Bernie was still pumped about forging onward as recently as February, when he quietly pursued quarterback Doug Flutie and was prepared to pay him $1 million a season to finish his career in Ottawa. That was before his "consultants" convinced him he had to get rid of his son (and team president) Lonie and his friend (and GM) Forrest Gregg, and that the team would lose more than $5 million this year.

When George Hudson, Josh Ranek then Pascal Cheron rejected extremely generous offers to sign in Hamilton, Bernie was told the team would be hopeless, winning no more than three games. And when Smith made it clear he wanted out, and Glieberman's initial search for another investor came up empty, he suddenly had no interest in carrying on.

Won't cover losses

Yesterday, when governors rejected his offer to cover $3 million of losses in 2006 (by the way, that nay should tell you there's no way the CFL could possibly run the team this season, despite Wright's suggestion that it is one of the options), Glieberman said he'd stay on as a 25% owner, if the league wanted.

You can bet that won't be happening.

No, this is it for the Glieberman era. It's bye, bye Bernie, and over to you, Gene.

It's you, or else, too-dle-oo Renegades.

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The CFL governors made like Steve Martin yesterday from The Jerk.

"Roll the ugliness," Martin said as a charity rep made his video pitch of poverty to woo some of Martin's newfound millions.

Now that CFL commissioner Tom Wright has rolled the ugliness of the Ottawa Renegades crisis to the governors of the other eight CFL members, the search is on for "The Candidate." The next Ottawa owner.

Embattled owner Bernie Glieberman was willing to cover as much as $5 million in expected 2006 operating losses, if the league was willing to loan him half: $2.5 million. It's an interesting wrinkle, considering Glieberman has a reputation for paying his bills, but terms of that loan could not be agreed upon.

Yesterday, the league announced it would fire up a committee to find legitimate ownership for the Renegades, with the hope of salvaging the 2006 season in Ottawa.

Ten reasons why the CFL would be wise to keep Ottawa in the loop this year, despite all these Capital headaches:

  1. Stability be thy name: The CFL has enjoyed a renaissance over the past three seasons. The Renegades were a part of this success as recently as 2004, when Ottawa played host to the Grey Cup. The league's improved image would take a serious hit if it lopped off a franchise, even temporarily, as it did in the bad old days of the 1980s (Montreal) and '90s (Ottawa).

  2. Buying time: Short term, it might seem easier to get rid of the Ottawa problem. In the bigger picture, Glieberman's decision to bring this crisis to a head now rather than in mid-season gives the league time to act in advance with an immediate survival plan while seeking Bernie's successor.

  3. TV, revenues and schedule issues: Both CBC and TSN will deliver diminished revenues if the league reverts to eight franchises, a scheduling nightmare. National sponsors will also have a case to pay less, including Canada Post, which is based down the street from Frank Clair Stadium.

  4. Ideal CFL setup: When Ottawa finally gets its act together, the league will wonder why it didn't notice before how perfectly suited to CFL football is the stadium (though in need of a makeover), and the city. Every losing streak is bound to end eventually, including Ottawa's string of goofy ownerships and managers. It's vital that the league take whatever time is necessary to end that streak.

  5. A Capital idea: Washington, D.C. is a better place now that the Nationals have taken up residence. (May the Expos rest in peace.) Canada's brand of football needs a home in the Nation's Capital to complete itself.

  6. Dues paid: Before the mockery, came the rich history and tradition of Rough Riders football. Though Lonie Glieberman may have been, Ottawa's franchise wasn't born yesterday. The roots of Ottawa football can be traced back to 1876. More than 200 football people with Riders connections have been inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame. Some of Canada's brightest football memories have been built around the playing careers of such Ottawa luminaries as Russ Jackson, Ron Stewart, Whit Tucker and Tom Clements. To imagine what might again be in Ottawa, it's important to remember where we've been.

  7. Expansion: The league has made careful strides toward expanding beyond nine teams to an even ten. Five in the east, five in the west. Wright would love nothing better than to see this through before he's out the door. For the second consecutive year, the CFL is staging a preseason game in Halifax, as a prelude to a berth for the Maritimes. Ottawa (oops) is scheduled to participate in that game on June 3. At the very least, a contraction to eight teams would set back expansion while the league looks for not one, but two new homes. It's hard to add when a league is getting over the embarrassment of subtracting.

  8. Comedy relief: Without the Renegades, who would play the role of class clown, the CFL whipping boy? If nothing else, the Renegades and Rough Riders before them have always been good for a laugh, not to mention two points in the standings. Think twice before casting out the league's bete noire.

  9. The next death could be fatal: The CFL is a league that never says never. However, the Riders died after the 1996 season and it took a mighty effort to revive the franchise five years later. Cutting the tie this time would mean a longer spell in limbo, and more likely, finality.

  10. The joy of getting it right: Coaches and general managers are drawn to Ottawa because they dream of being part of the management team that finally gets it right. The CFL takes pride in the turnaround efforts of B.C., Toronto and Hamilton in recent seasons. Imagine the pride of resurrecting Lazarus in eastern Ontario.

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The Ottawa Renegades were put on the market this morning with a doomsday clock set to expire in less than three weeks.

Wednesday, Canadian Football League governors rejected a proposal from Renegades majority owner Bernie Glieberman that would have presumably seen the club through the 2006 season, and revoked the deed to the franchise from Glieberman and minority owner Bill Smith.

The league also set an early-April deadline to complete a sale. Barring that, the Renegades will either be operated by the eight other teams or folded.

"We will be actively attempting to secure new ownership ... I think it is realistic but we have a lot of work to do," CFL commissioner Tom Wright said Wednesday. "There will not be any ticket-selling right now, which is why we have to act quickly."

Over the next two weeks, a committee of Wright, B.C. Lions owner David Braley and CFL chairman Tom Robinson, formerly the Saskatchewan Roughriders governor, will ratchet up their search for a buyer. Also, league officials will begin drawing up an eight-team schedule and preparing to move on without the Renegades.

Wright confirmed that a dispersal draft of players would be required should the franchise fold.

Wednesday, the commissioner expressed confidence that a sale could be completed in short order, but denied that he was talking to Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk. He said he would also call Jeff Hunt, owner of the Ontario Hockey League's Ottawa 67's.

As the Citizen reported Wednesday, Wright has been talking with at least two other parties said to be interested. One group has said that it wouldn't be ready to assume control before 2007, but it is believed the league will make every effort to accelerate that timetable.

Wright said community ownership of the Renegades was "not necessarily a non-starter," but added that the league will only complete a transaction if it has full confidence in the new owner. Anything less than that, and Wright suggested the club could be suspended for the 2006 season.

"Right now, our focus is to do everything we can to have a team compete in 2006," Wright said. "We consider Ottawa an important market and we are committed to finding the right owner."

The exact deadline for a decision was not specified, but on April 12, Glieberman was set to provide the team with $300,000. He met a $200,000 cash call last Monday, but next month's tab includes $125,000 in signing bonuses for players such as quarterback Kerry Joseph and wide receiver Jason Armstead.

Wright would not identify an exact drop-dead date, but said it would "probably" be before the above date.

Meanwhile, the league is working out financial details of how much it could cost to operate the Renegades for the forthcoming season, and how much it might cost itself in broadcast rights fees and national sponsorships should it collapse the team.

On Monday, Glieberman met with Wright and Braley and pledged to cover the team's first $2.5 million in losses this year. The team is expected to lose between $4-6 million on operations this season.

He also asked for a $2-million loan from the league to cover the rest of the shortfall and promised to cover losses beyond $4.5 million. The arrangement would have given Glieberman time to search for an ownership partner or an outright buyer before the 2007 season.

But the league rejected the Detroit millionaire's proposal because, according to sources, Glieberman wasn't willing to provide any money up-front or personally guarantee the loan. Instead, Glieberman cited cash concerns and wanted to guarantee the loan against the club.

When reached Wednesday, Glieberman said he did offer a personally-guaranteed loan and said he would meet cash needs upon request.

"I gave them what I thought was a fair offer. I was willing to invest another $4.5 million to try to get it back on its feet," Glieberman said. "But they really felt like they wanted a local person and I don't disagree with them. I made a promise to Ottawa fans and I'm not going to be able to live up to it, but I'm hoping they find somebody. That's my biggest concern."

Wright said he was advised of a "serious situation" with the Renegades' ownership late last week, after a Citizen report stated the club's ownership was not prepared to meet the club's financial needs in 2006. Operationally, Wright said he was trying to help the Renegades meet league standards in staffing and procedure for months.

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CFL operatives should have adhered to this credo: Once Bernied, twice shy.

Instead, Bernie and Lonie Glieberman were allowed to assume control of a CFL team for a third time. The results were predictably putrid.

With that in mind, commissioner Tom Wright was asked a valid question during Wednesday's conference call.

Tom Harrington, CBC: "I can hear an Ottawa fan saying now, Mr. Commissioner, that it clearly was a mistake to have the Gliebermans come back into the CFL. How would you react to that?''

Tom Wright, commissioner: "I think it's time to turn the page. I think that we understand the situation that occurred. The rear-view mirror is always an easy way to approach things, but ultimately I think we just have to turn the page and move forward.''

Sorry, but this is not a matter of 20-20 hindsight being exercised by the media.

All the league officials and the board of governors had to do one year ago was to look in the aforementioned "rear-view mirror'' and shudder at the Glieberman's dismal CFL track record.

The Gliebermans' previous tenure in Ottawa -- please respect this moment of silence for the Rough Riders -- was a disaster. The same can be said of the Glieberman-owned Shreveport Pirates.

Given that resume, why should people have expected anything different from the Renegades with the Gliebermans in charge? Less than a year after the Glibermans were introduced, again, there is utter ruination.

There is every reason to question the future of the CFL in Ottawa. The front office is in chaos. Marketing is only a rumour. The season-ticket holder must be questioning his investment.

Their only asset, it seems, is quarterback Kerry Joseph. The Renegades' only inspired move of the offseason was to sign Joseph to a contract extension instead of peddling him to the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

Joseph, of course, is in limbo. So is everyone associated with the Renegades. The league announced its intentions Wednesday to pursue new ownership for the troubled Ottawa franchise.

A scarcity of potential suitors contributed to the league's decision to embrace the Gliebermans in the spring of 2005. When the Gliebermans' checkered resume was repeatedly cited by fans and media carnivores, those concerns were brushed aside. The essence of the response was: It is a far, far better thing to have the Gliebermans in charge than to disband the franchise.

Predictably, the Gliebermans were merely a Band-Aid, which did not come close to stopping the bleeding.

Everyone should have seen this coming. They should have known that the return of the Gliebermans deferred, instead of solved, the problem.

Those concerns were ignored. Bags were placed over heads. Influential league figures tried to convince themselves and the disbelieving masses that the Gliebermans would be OK, this time.

This is the league, remember, which once welcomed back Nelson Skalbania.

Finally, and perhaps belatedly, the CFL poohbahs have come to their senses. Instead of exacerbating the problems by providing financial support to the Glieberman-owned team, the decision has been made to dissolve ties.

Wright said the current ownership will continue to pay the bills into April while the league searches for prospective buyers. Although the genial commissioner is optimistic, it is virtually impossible to share that view. After all, it was not even a year ago that the Gliebermans were the only option. Tack on another year's worth of deterioration and the Renegades, circa 2005, seem like a blue-chip investment by comparison.

Fans of the CFL, and of the Renegades, are left to cross their fingers, toes and limbs while hoping that some benevolent soul -- Eugene Melnyk, perhaps? -- is willing to absorb multimillion-dollar losses after assuming control of a dormant operation.

Key players have fled Ottawa. There has not been an infusion of players or cash. Complicating matters, the Renegades' scheduled regular-season opener is only three months away.

There is, however, some good news emanating from Ottawa. Bernie Glieberman will soon become an ex-owner.

That is all the progress we have to report

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It tells you a little about the Ottawa Renegades -- or what's left of the franchise -- that three former employees are hot on the trail to uncover the future of the team.

Barre Campbell, Arash Madani and Eric Tillman, who once had their paycheques authorized by the Renegades, are now in the media, writing or broadcasting about the future of pro football in Ottawa.

Campbell and Madani used to be in charge of the Renegades' public relations, which on most days meant spinning the truth more than George W. Bush. Tillman's job was to manage the team, a job he did decently for the first two years given that he had to sculpt the expansion franchise literally out of nothing. Then a bean-counter came in and decided to limit Tillman's powers, subsequently leading to the manager's exit at the end of the season. Tillman found employment as a football analyst for Sportsnet and could have chronicled the daily foibles of his former team, but it would have been construed as sour grapes.

RUMOURS

Tillman's name keeps resurfacing as a possible candidate to return to his Renegades job, assuming there is a team.

Right now, the situation is as chaotic as ever and if you went to Vegas, where the Canadian Football League once had a franchise, you could probably lay down some interesting bets: Even money to fold; 3-1 the league operates the team throughout this season dipping into the accounts of the other eight teams; 6-1 a new owner is found (the odds-on choice Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk, who could have had this team a long time ago).

Bernie Glieberman, who once boasted upon his second go-round that he was prepared to spend whatever it took, has suddenly come up with a case of the shorts. No doubt the trusty advisors who told him to boot out his son Lonie, the pint-sized president with the penchant for girly promotions, didn't take into account the emotional impact it would have on dear old dad. So there will be, in the words of commissioner Tom Wright, an "orderly transition" of the team, with the Gliebermans gone in a few weeks. So it is said, so it shall be written.

The league will do an exhaustive inventory of the team -- what's left of it anyway because young Glieberman managed to gut it good, figuring he could sink big money into the football operations and run the rest of the operation on a shoestring. There is no guarantee a buyer will be found. After all, if nobody but Bernie Glieberman and his fanatical football son wanted to come in a year ago with open arms and wads of cash, what are the chances there's a buyer willing to ante up. It's been a recurring sad song -- and not one by Ottawa icon Paul Anka -- that no one is lining up at the ownership wicket to buy the pro football team.

Wright, who always seems to be going through his own version of March Madness, is part of a committee that has been put together to oversee the Ottawa situation. Included on the committee is CFL chairman of the board Tom Robinson (one of the directors of the Saskatchewan Roughriders) and B.C. Lions owner David Braley, who is often portrayed as one of the burrs on Tom Wright's backside. Braley helped to unearth Hamilton Tiger-Cats' saviour Bob Young, who became known as Mr. X to keep the dogs in the media off the scent. Maybe Braley has a Y guy (or is that wise guy?) ready to save the Renegades.

Undoubtedly Arash Madani, Barre Campbell and Eric Tillman will be digging into their past to perhaps find the answer for the future.

Then again, the easiest thing to do is fold the team. It has been done before and it managed to come back. Eight teams will create a balanced schedule and solve a lot of problems. Unfortunately there are some people in Ottawa who truly care about football, even after a rerun of Weekend at Bernie's

If Eugene Melnyk comes on board, I will turn from a Habs fan to a Sens fan and start wearing Sens stuff, put a Sens banner on my front porch etc.
And I will try and get to a Sens game once in a while if there are tickets. As well as a Gades game.

Mr. Wright, please make it attractive for Mr. Melnyk to seriously consider becoming the new owner of the Ottawa Renegades. This will help make up for you mentioning that you weren't aware until recently how serious the problems were in Ottawa. I'm not even going to touch this statement because I can't believe that this was said.

“An entire season”? Pardon me, but it was more like two months.

You’d think the Canadian Press would get their facts straight.

well, looks like Melnyk won't be saving them

The fat lady is warming up.

why is that?

and codos to Dgod, working over time.

seems like the Gades will survine when someone different from the Gs comes in.Alot of fans will come back.

'Cause Melnyk said he won't be saving them.