SEND FOR GAUDAUR!
More scoring, fewer stoppages, more fun for the fans-because Canadian football knew what to do in a crisis...
IN THE FIRST MONTH of football this fall, record crowds flowed into parks across Canada four times — twice in Toronto where they topped
33,000, once in Calgary where they threatened
25,000, once in Montreal with more than 27,000. Nonetheless, there was scarcely an executive or a newsman who’d bet a quarter that financial disaster for one or more of Canada’s nine pro clubs wasn’t lurking right around the box office.
In the first month of the season, too, there weie at least three sports columns across the land pointing out that the calibre of American footballer coming here to play was deteriorating discernibly. “With the kind of salaries and pension plans they now have in the United States,” said Dink Carroll of the Montreal Gezette, “a kid who could make it down there would have to be cuckoo to come here.”
Sn the same month Montreal finally was confirmed as a new member of the National Baseball League, setting up the strong possibility that an American football franchise was soon to follow, ruining Montreal as a Canadian Football League centre.
Disaster has been a familiar story in Canadian football for nearly two decades — since 1950 when all the teams began reaching out for American imports and boosting their budgets into six figures. Once, in 1951, Frank Bliss, the tall angular president of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, said of the Hamilton executive: “All of us are sound businessmen, yet if any of us operated our own budgets the way we run this football team we’d be bankrupt.”
Nothing has changed — except the budgets. Now, instead of operating for a season for, say, $101,047.73, the average outlay for a Canadian team is nearly one million dollars a year. And there hasn’t been a year since that 1951 observation of Frank Bliss’s that at least one executive board hasn’t pondered the question: “Are we all going to hell in a basket?”
Nobody has. - Indeed, from the days of 1951
when the teams traveled short junkets in day coaches (executives in the chair cars), the league has expanded with an interlocking schedule that takes the teams from Montreal to Vancouver and back again, riding 35,000 feet up in pressurized jets, top cabin all the way.
No, nobody’s gone broke, though costs are still going up. Quarterbacks who used to get $400 a game (such as AÍ Dekdebrun of the 1950 Grey Cup champion Toronto Argonauts) now get upward of $25,000 a year (indeed, when he retired from the British Columbia Lions following the 1967 season, Bernie Faloney was drawing $37,500). And one of the big reasons that all these clubs and all these players have survived, however tenuously, is a man named Jacob Gill (Jake) Gaudaur, the game's new commissioner.
For a dozen years Gaudaur had been making an unbelievable success of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats as general manager, president and part owner of the franchise. While that was all right for Hamilton, the rest of the league was wallowing around without a rudder, often scraping by for no other reason than that they were the only game in town (I mean, what eio you elo on a Saturday in Regina or Ottawa?). Then last spring the rest of the league convinced Gaudaur he should start doing for everybody what he’d been doing for Hamilton, and, pressing some $40,000 a year upon his person, they persuaded him to run the whole operation.
Football can be a complicated exercise, made more so by the gobbledegook language of
coaches, but Gaudaur learned 14 years ago at the knee of the late Bert Bell, former commissioner of the National Football League in the U. S., that only two words matter: competition and entertainment. If football doesn’t include those two ingredients, it's nowhere. Accordingly, Gaudaur's philosophy as commissioner revolves entirely around whether the games are entertaining and the teams competitive.
In Hamilton, he built both, one way and another. As commissioner, he's convinced he can multiply his Hamilton success by nine to embrace all the teams. He's convinced quietly lie can do this, for Gaudaur is a purposeful, dedicated, modest man who’s really not trying to say lie can do it, but that it can be done with the great good help of all the other CFL executives on all the other teams.
If it were purely a matter of physical requirement, Gaudaur could do it alone. At six-foot-three and 235 pounds, he is almost fit to take over the tackle position on one of the ball clubs. His stomach is flat and his energy boundless even at 48. He has a large barrel for a chest and he walks around on oak stumps. For all his bulk, though, Gaudaur (pronounced G’dore) is a polite man who rarely raises his voice above its customary flat monotone. In conversation he is persuasive rather than bombastic.
He realizes economics has always been an ogre to be lived with in Canadian football. “As long as 1 can remember,”, he says, “people have been saying football is headed for disaster. And we’ve kept on growing. I’ll be worried when they stop talking that way; then I’ll know no one cares and we'll really be in trouble. Canadian football in the past 20 years has advanced from the days when players would get windbreakers or a couple of hundred dollars, to the current year, when total salaries will exceed $3,250,000. The nine teams now gross more than eight million dollars annually, and it’s because / continued on page 46
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In came Gaudaur, down went penalties, up went the scores
they have to spend that much annually that someone invariably announces that the CFL has priced itself out of business. The thing they don’t understand is that it’s always been that way, and 1 expect it always will be.”
Gaudaur scoffs at people who feci that expansion of professional football
in the U. S. has watered down the quality of American players now coming to Canada.
“Depending upon your point of view, it’s conceivable we offer an American boy more than the U. S. pro leagues do,” he argues. “They draw big salaries and fat pensions, but ours is a league in which players can hold
down full-time jobs while they’re playing football — in effect, lay the groundwork for lifetime careers. As for the calibre of players, there are so many good players coming out of college every year, and the pros have room for so few, that we have to prosper. If our teams are alert to the abilities of players cut by the two leagues
down there at the last moment, they can build competitive teams here. I simply don’t accept lack of availability of players as an excuse for a losing club. Hell, we built half our winning teams in Hamilton on late cuts from the American pros. We let them do our scouting.”
Gaudaur had been commissioner only four months when the present season began. But his ruling hand was soon apparent on the field: the scores suddenly were higher. Scoring, obviously, is one of the fundamental requirements in any game’s entertainment value. A major complaint against Canadian football in recent years has been that the defenses have grown too strong for the offenses, with the result that some games have produced hockey scores — Hamilton 6-2 over Montreal, for example. Over the past three seasons, total points in any given game have averaged 35.5 in 1965. 32.7 in 1966, and 36.0 last season. In the United States, the AFL averaged 45.3 points last year and the NFL 43.7.
Significantly, the Canadian average jumped to 41.1 during the first third of the current season, and this came about in a typical Gaudaur manner. In a routine study of penalty figures he noticed that the officials in the CFL had called an average of 12.3 penalties in 1967, or a total of 836 penalty calls in the 68-game season. This struck Gaudaur as representing far too many interruptions in fan enjoyment. And he knew from his own observation that penalties too often nullified spectacular offensive manoeuvres, even touchdowns. To improve the entertainment, he determined that the number of infractions had to be reduced. But how? As commissioner, he couldn’t order the officials to stop calling obvious fouls.
“I attempted to instill a philosophy of tolerance in rules interpretation.” says Gaudaur, carefully. “I was concerned that the spirit of the rules be emphasized.”
Translated, what he did in effect was tell the officials to think twice about calling borderline penalties that did not significantly affect plays. If somebody grabbed somebody away over there near the left sideline while a touchdown pass, say, was being completed over here near the right sideline, the official needn’t worry about life along the left sideline. Also, he broke down the 1967 penalties by teams. Whenever the figures showed that a team was frequently incurring a certain penalty, he had it pointed out to the coach of that team during training camp, and suggested they work on curtailing the frequency of the offense. The result was that the number of penalties per game was reduced from 12.3 to 9.5 during the first third of the present season. Fans found themselves yelling a lot louder a lot more often.
As commissioner, Gaudaur is in a position to implement broadly the sort of successful image-building he started in Hamilton where his team gained the Grey Cup final nine times and missed the Eastern final only once, in 1960. In a dozen Gaudaur years, his Ticats won the national championship four times and their attendance more than doubled.
In Gaudaur’s first year as Hamilton president, 1954, the Ticats attracted
an average of 11,631. Two years later when he took on the general - manager’s duties as well, he got the average up to 18,139. In 1960 he and a group cf 11 businessmen bought the franchise, with Gaudaur as principal stockholder. Three years later the Tiger-Cats hit 25,200 per game in a city of about 300,000 population. In his last four years in Hamilton, attendance ranged from 22,300 to 24,100.
In Hamilton he recognized he was dealing with a steel town whose inhabitants rarely confused football with ballet. He created the Tiger-Cat image in a tough and rugged mold, even drew the design of a snarling tiger as the team’s emblem and also wrote the Ticats’ marching song. He hired big, blunt coaches (Jim Trimble and Ralph Sazio) to handle hard-knocking teams. “‘Football is a game of attrition,” Trimble used to say. And the Tiger-Cats played that way.
Gaudaur hopped airplanes at the drop of a rumor to find winning football players, and some of the big sports stories of the period reflected his aggressiveness. Sitting in his office in downtown Hamilton one afternoon in November 1960, he read that Sam Etcheverry, Montreal’s marvellous quarterback, had been chewed out by Coach Perry Moss for not having thrown a single pass during the first half of a playoff game against Ottawa, which was unprecedented for Sam the Rifle. Gaudaur also remembered reading a few days earlier that Hal Patterson, Montreal’s outstanding end, had argued with Coach Moss when Moss ordered an immediate team practice on a Sunday night as the players were deplaning in the rain at Dorval Airport after a losing game. Gaudaur smelled something burning. He called owner Ted Workman of the Alouettes and suggested they talk trade. Finding Workman receptive, Gaudaur caught a plane at 4 p.m. By 11 that night he was trying to keep his face straight as he completed two trades. Obviously there was smoke; the Alouettes had been fleeced of Patterson for an undistinguished Hamilton end, Don Paquette, and of Etcheverry for Bernie Faloney, Hamilton’s skilled quarter-
back. It was the most spectacular trade in Canadian fooball.
However, Gaudaur didn’t know that Workman had signed a secret agreement with Etcheverry that Sam would not be traded without his consent. Violating that document, presumably under the spell of Gaudaur’s persuasiveness, Workman made Etcheverry a free agent — and he signed with the St. Louis Cardinals. Patterson played another seven seasons for Hamilton and still holds the CFL record for
yards-gained pass receiving (9.473) and touchdown passes caught (64).
Gaudaur is also the man who lured Ronnie Knox to Canada. Knox was a tremendously gifted and controversial player in the late 1950s. One of the original hippies. Knox grew his hair long, wrote and recited poetry and played Rose Bowl quarterback for Southern California. Gaudaur flew to Los Angeles to pursue Knox, then took Ronnie, his uncle Harvey Knox, and his stepsister Pat, a movie
starlet, to Vancouver to watch the Lions play the Tiger-Cats. Gaudaur somehow got Knox’s name on a contract for only $10,800. Knox played three seasons in Canada, for Hamilton, Calgary, then Toronto; then he decided to retire and write poetry, insisting that “football is a game for animals.”
It was Gaudaur who brought the star quarterback Bernie Faloney back to Canada after Edmonton cut him when he entered the U. S. Army in
The goal: an evenly balanced league
the mid-1950s. And even the hulking Coach Trimble was the object of a Gaudaur coup. Reading a rumor that Trimble had been fired as head coach of the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles. Gaudaur rushed to Philadelphia and persuaded Trimble to come to Hamilton — where he coached successfully for seven years, then went to Montreal for three more.
Trips for the Tiger-Cats brought Gaudaur into contact with Bert Bell, the NFL commissioner, and their relationship provided Gaudaur with the administrative philosophy he later took to the CFL commissioner’s chair. His first task when he became president of the Tiger-Cats had been to tackle a $150,000 lawsuit brought against the club by George Halas, owner and coach of the Chicago Bears, three of whose players, quarterback George Blanda, linebacker Frank Dempsey and end Jack Hoffman, had been raided and signed by H a m i I t o n. Gaudaur, just shy of his 34th birthday and freshly retired as a player, went to Bell’s office in Philadelphia to explore the legal aspects of the suit. In spite of their age difference — the straight-talking Bell was in his mid-60s — the two men found an immediate and enduring rapport.
“Bert and I sat up all night and between us worked out the basis of the non-raid agreement that exists today between the CFL and the NFL,” Gaudaur recalls. Then he went to Chicago and made a settlement with Halas, who agreed to let Hamilton keep Dempsey and settled the $150,000 suit for costs.
“Bert pointed out to me that the old All-America Conference failed in the United States because it was a lopsided league, dominated by the Cleveland Browns,” Gaudaur says. “The NFL flourished because the teams were competitive. Bell insisted
that all cities share equally in television’s millions of dollars of revenue, so that such big commercial centres as New York and Chicago would not economically overwhelm smalle r ones.”
Thus when Gaudaur was appointed chairman of the CFL’s Eastern Conference television committee in the early 1960s, he worked for an equitable distribution among eastern teams of that conference's income from television fees, which he managed to raise from $250,000 to $475,000. (Today, the CFL's combined east-west TV income is $971,000.)
Gaudaur also helped formulate a plan for dividing gate receipts to bolster smaller centres — visiting teams collected 25 percent of the home-team’s receipts.
Gaudaur’s CFL office is high in one of the new glass-box buildings in downtown Toronto. He commutes 30 miles by train from his home in Burlington where he lives in a big, comfortable lakeshore home with his wife Molly, three striking - looking daughters, two Siamese cats, a poodle and a beagle. He’s a nonsmoker, not much of a drinker, a prodigious eater and a landscape painter whose work has had public showings.
But Gaudaur devotes most of his working hours to his job. to football, and to making it synonymous with the only two words that matter in the commissioner's office — competition and entertainment.
“Jn the past,” he said recently. “1 always fervently believed that there should be an evenly balanced league — as long as Hamilton never lost. 1 mean never. Now, in this job, my attitude has changed slightly. I feel fervently that there should be an evenly balanced league — ah — period."
On his record, Gaudaur will get it, too. ★