Sacramento prospects for talent

May 14, 1994|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,Sun Staff Writer

Kay Stephenson went through 103 players in his first Canadian Football League season trying to find the winning mix for the Sacramento Gold Miners. A year later, the revolving door continues.

In an off-season of perpetual motion, Stephenson, the Gold Miners coach, has been moving bodies at a frenetic pace. Scratch defensive backs John Wiley, Kip Texada, Walter Bailey and Tommy Henry, receivers Joe Howard-Johnson and Carl Parker, tailback Charles Thompson and defensive end Randy Thornton -- all starters or contributing players, most sent out in trades for future considerations.

The future is not now in Sacramento. The Gold Miners are still paying for a hurried start a year ago, when they became the first U.S. team to play in the CFL. It is a predicament the league's three new expansion teams in Baltimore, Las Vegas and Shreveport, La., may not have to endure, Stephenson said.

"We were guinea pigs," the one-time Buffalo Bills coach said. "They will have a much better chance to be competitive than we had last year. Based on what I see, Baltimore is going to be the strongest of the three. There's a definite possibility Baltimore will be one of the better teams in the league by midseason.

"They've been able to go out and get people who played in the league. . . . They have an experience factor that very few expansion teams have had."

In the aftermath of Sacramento's 6-12 debut, the CFL granted concessions to the new expansionists. They got nearly a two-week jump on the rest of the league in training camp and an increased negotiation list -- from 35 to 52 players.

Money for nothing

The Kent Austin saga grows more curious by the week. Austin, one of three CFL quarterbacks to throw for 6,000 yards in a season, was a key figure in an eight-player, three-team trade last March that sent him from Saskatchewan to the British Columbia Lions.

He is not ecstatic about going to the West Coast to play in Vancouver, B.C., because he recently opened a telecommunications business in Nashville, Tenn. He has asked to be traded and to have the last two years of his contract renegotiated. Three weeks ago, he announced he was retiring unless it happened.

Now comes word Austin last year borrowed as much as half of his $250,000 salary for 1994 from Saskatchewan, which is suddenly in the lurch. Both the Ottawa Rough Riders, the third team in the deal, and the Lions say they're not liable for money owed Saskatchewan.

Austin, who had his 6,000-yard season under Don Matthews, now the CFL Colts coach, wants to be traded to the

quarterback-poor Toronto Argonauts.

Sizing up seats

CFL Colts owner Jim Speros says the team will have seat locations at Memorial Stadium for season-ticket holders next week. Estimating season-ticket sales at 24,000, Speros said there is a waiting list of 7,500 people who want to know seat location before purchase.

Starting June 3, single tickets will be available for the team's home preseason game against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers on June 29, and the team's home opener against the Calgary Stampeders on July 16.

Miscellaneous

Winnipeg hired former Houston Cougars coach John Jenkins yesterday as defensive backs coach for $48,000. . . . Vegas has signed 130 players, including 13 quarterbacks, among them former Oklahoma star Cale Gundy.

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