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Ford named Ticats interim GM

CP   2003-08-23 04:04:11  

HAMILTON -- Alan Ford, a former player and general manager of the Saskatchewan Roughriders, was named interim GM of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats yesterday. The league assumed control of the Hamilton club last weekend after owners David Macdonald and George Grant failed to meet their player payroll.

As Paul Robson did with the Toronto Argonauts, Ford will produce a report for the league within two or three weeks that will outline the Tiger-Cats' organizational strengths and weaknesses, and potential for improvement off and on the field.

"What that allows us to do is to really get our hands around the state of the franchise," said CFL commissioner Tom Wright, who brought Ford to town yesterday.

"We will then have a really good understanding from a business point of view and from a team operations point of view so that when we do sit down with prospective owners, we have a clear understanding of what the situation is."

Under Macdonald and Grant, the Ticats didn't have a general manager. Head coach Ron Lancaster headed up the football operations while Grant assisted the front office in the day-to-day operations of the franchise.

Last month the CFL took over operating the Toronto Argonauts after owner Sherwood Schwarz had stopped paying the bills. Schwarz, a New York insurance magnate, reportedly lost $16 million over three seasons operating the Argos.

Ford, who served as Roughriders general manager from 1989 to '99, met with the team's off-field staff yesterday. Although neither he nor Wright have guaranteed there will be no layoffs -- 14 Argo front-office staff were fired after the league took over -- both have said the Ticat front office is already very lean.

"It's a skeleton staff which has worked very hard," Ford said. "I told them that we're all part of a team in here, just like the players are with coach Lancaster. I'll oversee the organization and try to see what makes the best use of resources we have.

"There will be some things we can do differently. No. 1, we have to somehow reconnect with the fans. The key to any successful franchise are the fans. Fans sometimes get blamed a lot for things they shouldn't get blamed for. What I want to do is hopefully provide, when they come to the stadium, a better game experience.

"That doesn't mean just on the football field, it's everything that happens when you come to Ivor Wynne Stadium. You can't guarantee wins and losses every year."

Ford is also a trustee of the CFL Players' Association pension fund. Earlier this week, Ford announced the union had $6 million in the fund but had lost track of about 1,100 former players who were eligible for the money.

A native of Regina, Ford attended University of the Pacific in California on a basketball scholarship and came back to star for the home-town Roughriders.

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