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Monday, August 28, 2000

Huard says many Argos players quit playing to get him fired as coach

HAMILTON (CP) -- John Huard is convinced that many Toronto Argonaut players deliberately didn't play their best to get him fired as head coach, the Hamilton Spectator reported Monday.

Huard resigned as Toronto's head coach Friday after the Argos were embarrassed 51-4 by the B.C. Lions on Thursday before just 11,350 spectators, the smallest gathering ever at SkyDome for a CFL game. The loss dropped the team to 1-6-1.

Throughout the game, irate fans pelted Huard with debris and showered him with insults and calls for his dismissal.

"I watched the tapes of the game till 4 a.m. Friday morning and, when I was finished, I realized there was no question that many of the players were playing to get me fired," Huard said. "There's no question about it. They wanted me out, so they didn't bother to play."

When asked, Huard would only mention one player: star receiver Derrell Mitchell.

"The week before, Mitchell was the player of the week in the Canadian Football League and scored three touchdowns," Huard said. "In the game Thursday night, he was tip-toeing around.

"Something was obviously wrong. I have reservations about Mitchell. I think he was one of the players who obviously made a decision that he didn't want to play in this game."

The Spectator said Mitchell could not be reached for comment.

During his final conversations with Argos managing director J.I. Albrecht and owner Sherwood Schwarz last week, Huard mentioned the names of 10 to 15 players whom he felt did not put in their best effort in Thursday's game.

"I rattled off the names and I told them that, if they wanted to win, they have to get these guys out," Huard said. "I said, 'If these guys could screw around with one head coach, how do you know they won't screw around with the next head coach?'

"I'll miss J.I. and Sherwood but I'm glad I don't have anything to do with those players any more."