With Ware episode, CFL is living down to its image


January 29, 1995|By KEN MURRAY

It was a little-noted and seemingly inconsequential transaction this off-season that perhaps best illuminated the minor-league image of the Canadian Football League.

On Jan. 16, the near-destitute Ottawa Rough Riders attempted to waive 1989 Heisman Trophy winner Andre Ware so they would spared his 1995 salary (an estimated $145,000) and would allow the quarterback to join the NFL expansion Jacksonville Jaguars.

Ware likely will turn up with the Jaguars, but his release from the CFL represents what's wrong with the league. It is filled with bizarre twists.

First, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, wanting to get in on any payoff by Jacksonville, claimed Ware. Ottawa promptly pulled Ware off waivers.

Then, with help from Ware's agent, Leigh Steinberg, Ottawa traded his contract to the Sacramento Gold Miners. Reportedly, Ottawa and Sacramento have an agreement in which the Gold Miners redo Ware's contract -- making it unattractive to Winnipeg -- and then release him.

Somewhere down the line, Sacramento gets compensated for helping, and everybody except Winnipeg is happy -- the Blue Bombers need a quarterback badly.

Of course, no one in the league wants to talk about the deal. The story broke in Ottawa, and when Sacramento coach Kay Stephenson was asked about it, he declined to comment, except to say that the Riders should be fined for discussing details.

At the moment, Ware is on waivers again, the Jaguars are on hold, and the CFL's reputation for doing whatever it takes to turn a quick buck is intact.

An issue of control

When the Toronto Argos picked 36-year-old Mike Faragalli last week as their fifth head coach in the past six years, the surprise choice raised more than eyebrows. It raised suspicion that general manager Bob O'Billovich, who reluctantly relinquished his coaching job Dec. 14, did not want to relinquish any of his control.

Faragalli, the son of longtime CFL coach Joe Faragalli, has coached 14 years -- none of them as top man. For the past four years, he was offensive coordinator at that NCAA juggernaut Bowling Green.

In winning the job, he beat out John Hufnagel and Joe Paopao, offensive coordinators at Calgary and Edmonton, respectively. Hufnagel wanted more control than O'Billovich was willing to surrender.

"The way I look at it, I'll be coaching Doug Flutie again, and that's not too bad," Hufnagel said.

Another slice of life

On his recent two-week trip to the Middle East, Baltimore coach Don Matthews and his wife, Maureen, visited religious centers for the Christian, Jewish and Islamic faiths. Although not xTC a religious person, Matthews said he gained an appreciation for all three religions during the tour.

"You can't go into those places without feeling the spiritual effect of it," he said.

He also took in the pyramids and visited the Sphinx. In Cairo, a city of 17 million people, he watched with fascination as traffic descended on intersections without stoplights.

"I saw a girl with 50 loaves of bread balanced on her head ride a bike through there," he said. "It was a humbling experience to see other people's struggles for life."

High CBA stakes

The CFL's collective bargaining agreement expires in June, but unlike labor talks in baseball and hockey, don't expect a lot of public posturing. Both sides are painfully aware of what's at stake.

"Any stoppage -- a lockout or a strike -- is going to end the CFL," said CFLPA president Dan Ferrone. "I don't think the stability is there for the CFL to have a work stoppage."

Said Ottawa president Phil Kershaw, "If the league tries to get in an acrimonious debate, we will have a serious problem."

Ferrone said he would be willing to extend the current deal, with some fine-tuning. Kershaw expects the major stumbling block to be the import quota that limits Canadian teams to 17 Americans. "That's where the rubber hits the road," he said.


The B.C. Lions, who are negotiating to keep free-agent quarterback Danny McManus, have dangled veteran Kent Austin front of Memphis. . . . Although Shreveport is expected to land free-agent quarterback Matt Dunigan, the Pirates have claimed negotiating rights to veteran free agent Bobby Hebert just in case. . . . Remarkably, there were seven media members who failed to give Matthews a first- or second-place vote as Coach of the Year. . . . When Flutie reached a five-year deal with the Calgary Stampeders, it marked the first time in his career he signed twice with the same team. His career spans the New Jersey Generals, Chicago Bears, New England Patriots, B.C. Lions and the Stampeders.

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