Continuing our series of CFL training camp previews, here's a look at the Toronto Argonauts, based on of this week's conference call with CEO Chris Rudge, general manager Jim Barker and head coach Scott Milanovich.
— There's no question that there are off-field business issues in Toronto; the Argonauts' average reported attendance of 20,018 fans per game last season was by far the worst in the league, and the situation's bad enough that they (and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats) will be getting subsidies to try and turn things around. Not all of their struggles are strictly because of the team's 6-12 record in 2011 (worst in the East Division), but on-field struggles tend to produce off-field issues. The reverse is also true, in that creative marketing ideas and solid fan outreach can help to revitalize a team's attendance and bottom line, but the most important criteria for success remains winning. Fortunately, Rudge seems to get that.
"The thing that counts most is the product on the field," he said. "Without that, everything else is in vain."
— There's a lot of pressure on the Argonauts to turn things around immediately, as they're hosting the 100th Grey Cup this fall and a strong season could go a long way towards revitalizing their brand in Toronto.
"We have a unique opportunity here," Rudge said. "We won't have another opportunity like this in the near future."
— However, while the organization has made several big moves that should make them more competitive this year, in particular the Ricky Ray trade, Barker said they haven't abandoned all thoughts of the future. In fact, he believes Ray will be leading their team for years to come.
"At 32 years old, we think Ricky's got some great years ahead of him," he said.Read More »from CFL Camp Countdown: Argonauts need an on-field turnaround for off-field success