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Saturday, August 26, 2000

Huard abandons ship

CREDIT: By FRANK ZICARELLI -- Toronto Sun

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Bashers of the beleaguered Boatmen won't have John Huard to kick around anymore. The controversial Argos coach resigned yesterday, a day after the team was humiliated 51-4 by the B.C. Lions in front of the smallest crowd to watch a CFL regular-season game at the SkyDome.

After viewing game film of the team's debacle early yesterday, Huard decided to submit his resignation. Argos managing director J.I. Albrecht hopes to have a successor in place before next Tuesday, when players return from their three-day break. The Argos, who are 1-6-1, don't play until Labour Day in Hamilton. Albrecht, who gave Huard his first head-coaching job, said Argos assistant Wally Highsmith will be given consideration to replace Huard. Many of the team's players, however, aren't sold on Highsmith as a head coach. Another leading candidate is believed to be onetime Argos offensive co-ordinator John Jenkins, who was among the 11,350 people to attend Thursday's game. Jenkins is well liked by the Argos veterans and his enthusiasm for the game is an element the team desperately is lacking. However, he has no connection with Albrecht, though team executive and former Argos receiver Paul Masotti is said to be pushing for Jenkins to be hired.

Jenkins is under contract to the Arkansas Twisters of the Arena League, but it's believed he easily could get out of his commitment. Jenkins served on the Argos staff when the team won back-to-back Grey Cups in 1996 and 1997.

Joe Moss, who coached the Argos in 1974, also is being mentioned as a potential replacement. "I want a coach who will win. I don't care what style he brings,'' Albrecht said. Even though the axe was poised to fall on Huard, the Argos insist it was his choice to leave. Huard will return to his home in Maine, his future in football unclear. "If we start to win and fans start to come out, then it's good,'' Argos owner Sherwood Schwarz said of Huard's departure. "My feeling is our season begins on Labour Day. You will see a turnaround and you will see us in competition for the Grey Cup.'' The Argos have been a bust at the gate and on the field under Huard, but Albrecht equally is to blame for the team's sad state. Albrecht and Huard met following Thursday's game and huddled again yesterday morning. "We weren't making the type of progress that is necessary at this stage,'' Huard said. "It rests on my shoulders and I accept responsibility.'' Huard had no comment when asked whether he felt the players had quit on the embattled head coach.

Relations between Huard and the team's veterans were strained from the day Huard became head coach back in January. At the time, he said last year's league-best defence was overrated and reiterated his assertion yesterday. "When you fall on your face, you move on and continue with things you have an interest in,'' Huard, who plans on sailing the world, said. Huard was ridiculed by many for his unconventional coaching methods and never endeared himself to Argos fans during his stint in Toronto.

As he walked off the field on Thursday, fans -- some making obscene gestures -- hurled debris and profanities at Huard. "My recommendation was take the (game) tapes and burn them,'' Huard said. "Throw the whole thing away, start fresh and get on with someone else.''