Despite disappointing end, Kent Austin’s Ticat tenure deserves to be celebrated

Despite the desperate lack of success at the end, there’s a lot to celebrate in Kent Austin’s tenure as head coach of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

In four-and-a-half years at the tiller, Austin lost more regular season games than he won (36-44), but as many (four) post-season games as he lost. His teams, for the most part, were better at the end of the season than at the beginning which is the correct CFL formula. And he and Ron Lancaster are the only Ticats coaches in the past 28 years to make the playoffs four seasons in a row and the only two Hamilton coaches since 1957, 60 years ago, to finish first or second in four consecutive years.

Austin’s steadfastness, which could be a negative trait when it came to things like the running game, was an important part — probably the most important part — of this team not wilting badly when it faced hurdles no CFL team had ever faced. When Austin arrived prior to the 2013 season, the Ticats had no home. Ivor Wynne had been torn down and Tim Hortons Field was going to take a year — ha! — to build. They were going to play a season in a university stadium that wasn’t even in the city that defines them, and practice at another university stadium that couldn’t meet all their needs.

When Austin arrived prior to the 2013 season, the Ticats had no home. Ivor Wynne had been torn down and Tim Hortons Field was going to take a year — ha! — to build. They were going to play a season in a university stadium that wasn’t even in the city that defines them, and practice at another university stadium that couldn’t meet all their needs.

It was Austin who suggested redesigning the company’s corporate headquarters at 1 Jarvis St. so that there was a real locker-room and training room on site, a place that a team with no real home games could call home. That idea, and its subsequent execution by Bob Young and Scott Mitchell, turned a potentially divisive year into a unifying one.

One Jarvis, and the sense of team engendered there, was the Ticats Crazy Glue. And it was augmented by Austin’s, yes, steadfast refusal to let his players feel self-pity for their potentially nomadic existence. And lo and behold a team playing all its games on the road made it to the Grey Cup for the first time in 15 years. A documentary should have been made about that season.

The following season was just as disrupted and dangerous, and maybe more so, with the stadium being completed late, and that’s with a very liberal interpretation of “completed.” The city was still fractured over the vicious stadium location debates when the Ticats got into Tim Hortons Field, temporarily, in September 2014, and they immediately began to patch over the community scars by turning the field into something special. Even with limited access, they immediately made it their home, winning out and again reaching the Grey Cup.

Things have turned the wrong way over the past two seasons, with copious injuries, the loss of two excellent co-ordinators in Tommy Condell and Orlondo Steinauer, a less talented roster, the stalling and regression of Zach Collaros’s development arc, subpar play by some at the top of the food chain, and the loss of the Tim Hortons Field mystique.

Austin must bear the overall blame for this, and he took it last week by firing himself. But he must also bear the credit for the fact that we know Tim Hortons Field can offer a dominant home field advantage, and that a 2013 season which could have cannibalized this franchise in fact, fed it.

Steve Milton

Steve Milton

Steve Milton is a long-time columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame media wing in 2012.
Steve Milton
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Steve Milton
About Steve Milton (92 Articles)
Steve Milton is a long-time columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame media wing in 2012.

24 Comments on Despite disappointing end, Kent Austin’s Ticat tenure deserves to be celebrated

  1. NotJoshSmith // August 28, 2017 at 8:34 am //

    It’s obvious Uncle Milty that you and the Spec are on the Ticat payroll. It the words of Trump: Sad!

    • Tiger man // August 28, 2017 at 12:00 pm //

      Steve Milton has been appointed to the Canadian football hall of fame and an author.

      What have YOU done of note??

      Didn’t think so…

  2. Keith Robbins // August 28, 2017 at 8:47 am //

    Accurate article. I enjoy reading Steve’s articles, usually! Not this one. As a school teacher, I must add that I wish it would have been edited by whomever does the editing for the spec. Dreadful!!!!!

    • Tiger man // August 28, 2017 at 11:56 am //

      Can we audit your classes and count the mistakes YOU make??

      Easy to point fingers when your work is not there for all to see.

      Coward.

      • Keith Robbins // August 28, 2017 at 9:23 pm //

        Coward? I was surprised this went out to read before editing. I have 2 people read my report cards before they go to print
        Signed,
        The coward…?!?! Lol

  3. Peter Griffin // August 28, 2017 at 8:48 am //

    Is it just me, or has Steve repeated just about every point/comment twice, in consecutive paragraphs? Made it near impossible to get the gist of what he was saying. I assume there is proof reading that occurs before the “send” button is hit!

  4. What will we do if we get a coach to go 1 game over 500? Will we name a street after him? Will we throw a parade?

    No this Life long Tiger-Cat demands excellence…not a life time of watching below 500 football

  5. First 2 years under a team the someone else built can be classed as a somewhat success last 2 years under Kents full control a disappointment. Successful coaches don’t fire themselves they evolve every year and stay ahead of the competition would this team have had any kind of success from the beginning if Orlando and condell weren’t running the d and O because as soon as they left this team has been a Train wreck so should we class Austin’s time here a success ?

    • Sea of Dead // August 28, 2017 at 10:14 am //

      Agree with what you have said but I would give Austin some credit for bringing back excitement/interest for Cat fans in his first two years and what appeared to be a very strong team up to the major Collaros injury in 2015.

      Unfortunately, it was downhill from there. Austin’s downfall was his inability or refusal to change … He was too committed to some players who, in hindsight, should have been traded away or let go and his game plan was virtually all pass,pass and more pass on routes that took way too much time to complete due to a weak OL that could not offer its QB sufficient protection.

      And it all came to a head this season when he brought back virtually the same core group of players who failed him down the stretch in 2016 and they did not show up at all leaving the team winless.

    • Tiger man // August 28, 2017 at 12:07 pm //

      You could say the same of Dave Dickenson after John Hufnagel went upstairs. He even kept the same coaching staff…

      Condell left this team just before the beginning of the 2016 season, Austin lost his starter for 12 games between 2015 and 2016…but I guess those aren’t factors….

      • Foolish and short sighted post. Why did Condell leave? Why do we not have an adequate replacement for Collaros ready to go? Why do we have such an ineffective O-line? There is only one answer.
        Use your head fer cryin’ out loud!

  6. Use an editor much….Guess that’s why I don’t read the Spectator.You should learn how to cut and paste, then edit.

    Things have turned the wrong way over the past two seasons, with copious injuries, the loss of two excellent co-ordinators in Tommy Condell and Orlondo Steinauer, a less talented roster, the stalling and regression of Zach Collaros’s development arc, subpar play by some at the top of the food chain, and the loss of the Tim Hortons Field mystique.Austin must bear the overall blame for this, and he took it last week by firing himself. But he must also bear the credit for the fact that we know Tim Hortons Field can offer a dominant home field advantage, and that a 2013 season which could have cannibalized this

    Austin must bear the overall blame for this, and he took it last week by firing himself. But he must also bear the credit for the fact that we know Tim Hortons Field can offer a dominant home field advantage, and that a 2013 season which could have cannibalized this franchise in fact, fed it.

  7. Very surprised to read this. I look back over the last four years and see a losing record, disappointment, and wreckage.

    • Well I don’t! I think that (as usual) Milton is spot on in his assessment. And for those who want to claim that Austin took a team built by someone else to the GC for the first 2 years, maybe you should go back and check because I remember it very differently. I recall almost a total overhaul on the defense in the first season and a number of new additions on offense (like Tasker, Gable, Banks). In fact it was mentioned that they were the youngest team in the league and the lack of experience in the playoffs, particularly the GC against an older, more experienced team clearly made them the underdogs. By the beginning of 2014 only a handful of players from the “pre-Austin” era remained on the team (possibly a half dozen). That’s hardly taking a team that was built by Obie to an almost GC win! Both of those teams were more Austin’s players than anyone else’s.

  8. Question.

  9. Southwest cowboy // August 28, 2017 at 10:56 am //

    Where’s the write-up on the Stamps/Argos game?

    • No doubt sure see enough articles about the pathetic teams of the east still in contention for home playoff games and undeserved playoff revenues

    • White Horse // August 28, 2017 at 5:56 pm //

      Top of the 3D website ‘Find My Team’ is where you find article about Stamps/Argos

  10. Thank you for the two great and exciting trips to the GC and renewing our hope for awhile
    Now to the new coach: you only have to win one game all year. AND THIS IS THE ONE!

  11. solara2000 // August 28, 2017 at 11:06 am //

    Don’t know what the ‘production’ glitch (duplicate text) is all about but not the first time on this site.
    A good article putting KA’s accomplishments into perspective with his short-comings. Perhaps SM’s choice of the word ‘celebration’ is a reach too far; a better word may have been ‘acknowledged’ or ‘recognized’.

  12. All you ticat basher Austin is the best coach in the league players greet is part of this they only have so much money to pay them I think the players should be part of the blame for this season over paid and a bunch of underachieving players I go to evey game stand behind this team let’s get the players to work for there pay like we have to very easy to blame the coach get the over paid bums on the feild to do there job go cats go Austin hold your head high you have done a great job in the hammer Fergie

  13. He was one bad penalty from a Grey Cup…what could have been ‘eh. 🙂

  14. I’m really glad to see an article acknowledging what Kent Austin did for the Cats and the fans.

  15. White Horse // August 28, 2017 at 6:00 pm //

    I bet Wally would love to have Kent Austin for his Lions next season. Austin is a victim of more than we fans really know.

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