Tuesday, 21 May 2024

Rick Zamperin: After defeat, Tiger-Cats fans direct anger at CEO Scott Mitchell

Mere minutes after the Ottawa Redblacks defeated the Hamilton Tiger-Cats 30-13 on Saturday, the knives were out.

Ottawa had just completed a season sweep against Hamilton, and in the process, clinched first place in the CFL’s East Division when 900 CHML’s 5th Quarter postgame show went on the air.

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A number of fans expressed their frustration by pointing the finger for the Ticats’ sub-.500 season (at least up to this point) at upper management, namely team CEO Scott Mitchell.

Bob Young saved the Tiger-Cats franchise from bankruptcy in 2003, and a little less than four years later, he hired Mitchell as team president.

Since Mitchell’s arrival in Hamilton on January 12, 2007, the Ticats have won 88 games and have lost 127.

While that winning percentage is .409 — meaning Hamilton has won 40 per cent of their regular season games since 2007 — the Cats have made the playoffs in eight of Mitchell’s 12 years with the black and gold, including this season, and have played in the Grey Cup final twice (2013 and 2014), losing both times.

Not winning a championship since 1999 in a nine-team league has certainly caused a mountain of pent up anger in Steeltown. It would in any town. Ask Blue Bombers fans in Winnipeg who have been starving for a championship season for 28 years how they feel.

But how much blame should a team owner, CEO or president shoulder?

Yes, upper management sets the tone and direction for their organization. They are responsible for hiring and firing general managers, and in some cases, head coaches. Team executives might also play a part in their franchise’s decisions on draft day.

But when it comes to the X’s and O’s of football, when coaches are creating a game plan and players are trying to execute that scheme, how much credit should upper management get when things go right? In truth, they should receive just as much blame for when things go wrong.

When the Tiger-Cats completed their season sweep of the hated Toronto Argonauts earlier this season, did anyone herald the exploits of Mitchell and Young? Hardly.

Fans gush over exceptional performances by their favourite players when things are going well. When it’s not going so hot, management is an easy target.

Now, that’s not to say Hamilton’s upper management should get off scot-free after going nearly two decades without a Grey Cup parade. There have certainly been some costly fumbles along the way.

Let’s not forget the Art Briles fiasco from last season and the team’s threat of leaving Hamilton during the great stadium debate.

Of course, there have been some questionable hirings, firings, draft picks and player additions and deletions over the years. But every CFL team is guilty of that.

Tiger-Cats fans who are at their wits’ ends would love to find an easy solution to Hamilton’s title drought, but pointing the finger at Scott Mitchell won’t solve anything. There’s only one way to find that out, but don’t expect a change anytime soon.

Hamilton Tiger-Cats timeline under former team president and current CEO Scott Mitchell

Jan. 12, 2007 – Ticats owner Bob Young announces the hiring of Scott Mitchell as team president. Hamilton finishes 3-15.

Dec. 5, 2007 – Mitchell announces the hiring of Bob O’Billovich as general manager.

Oct. 27, 2008 – Marcel Bellefeuille replaces Charlie Taaffe as Hamilton’s head coach. Ticats finish 3-15.

2009 – Tiger-Cats finish 9-9 and make the playoffs for the first time since 2004 but lose 34-27 in overtime against the B.C. Lions in the East Semi-Final.

2010 – Hamilton loses to Toronto 16-13 in the East Semi-Final after another 9-9 season. Unhappy with plans to build a new stadium at Hamilton’s west harbour, Ticats threaten to move if city officials don’t listen to team’s concerns.

2011 – City of Hamilton and Tiger-Cats agree to build new stadium at Ivor Wynne Stadium site. Ticats finish 8-10 and win their first playoff game since 2001 by stunning Montreal 52-44 in overtime in East Semi-Final but lose 19-3 in frigid Winnipeg in East Final and fire head coach Marcel Bellefeuille 17 days later.

2012 – Ticats acquire QB Henry Burris in a trade with Calgary and name George Cortez new head coach but finish in last place and miss the playoffs after a 6-12 campaign. Cortez is fired in December.

Nov. 2012 – Ground is broken on Hamilton’s new stadium. On Dec. 17, 2012 Kent Austin is named Tiger-Cats head coach, general manager and vice president of football operations.

2013 – Ticats play home games in Guelph after Ivor Wynne Stadium is demolished to make way for new stadium. Ticats name Scott Mitchell CEO and announce the signing of a 10-year stadium naming rights agreement with Tim Hortons. 10-8 Hamilton beats Montreal and Toronto in East Semi-Final and Final but lose 45-23 against Saskatchewan in 100th Grey Cup in Regina.

2014 – Tiger-Cats sign QB Zach Collaros and release QB Henry Burris. Hamilton beat the Argos 13-12 on Labour Day in the first game at Tim Hortons Field. Hamilton finishes 9-9 and advances to its second straight Grey Cup but loses 20-16 to Calgary in the Grey Cup in B.C.

2015 – After a 10-8 regular season the Cats lose 35-28 to the Redblacks in the East Final in Ottawa on a late game 93-yard touchdown from Henry Burris to Greg Ellingson, two former Ticats.

2016 – Hamilton loses 24-21 to Edmonton in the East Semi-Final after a 7-11 record in the regular season.

2017 – After a disastrous 0-8 start to the season the Ticats replace head coach Kent Austin with June Jones. Austin remains VP of football ops and GM. Less than a week later, Hamilton hires Art Briles as an assistant coach but rescinds the offer hours later following a tidal wave of public backlash. Scott Mitchell admits hiring Briles was a “mistake” after the team “underestimated the tsunami of negativity.” Owner Bon Young tweeted that CFL Commissioner Randy Ambrosie “saved the Ticats from a major blunder.” Ticats miss the playoffs after finishing 6-12.

2018 – Ticats trade quarterback Zach Collaros to Saskatchewan and sign QB Johnny Manziel but end up trading him weeks later to Montreal. A settlement is reached between the City of Hamilton, Tiger-Cats, contractor and provincial agencies to end the two year long stadium litigation process. Cats enter the final week of the season against the Alouettes with an 8-9 record and will host B.C. in the East Semi-Final on Nov. 11.

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