Kent Austin’s Ticats legacy a complex one

In the words of Keyser Söze, “And just like that… he’s gone.”

That’s what came into my head when the announcement was made on Thursday that Kent Austin had stepped down as VP of football ops for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

He has now transitioned into a consultant with the franchise.

Not to put the cart before the horse, but I think it is fair to say that this probably signifies the end of Austin’s tenure with the Ticats. While this is just a gut feeling, I would be very surprised if Austin is still a part of the organization a year from now.

But it was somewhat of a quiet end to his five-year reign that was anything but quiet.

Austin took over amid much fanfare in December 2012 after the Ticats limped to a 6-12, last-place finish the season before under George Cortez.

Over the next five years we saw everything from back-to-back Grey Cup appearances to a disastrous 0-8 start in 2017 that ended his run as head coach. In between we saw the team nearly get to a third straight Grey Cup, narrowly losing to the Ottawa Redblacks in the 2015 East Final, the same year that Zach Collaros tore his knee up and effectively ended what was one of the best runs in Ticats history (for those that forget, the Ticats were 8-3 when Collaros went down and were running roughshod over the entire league).

With so many high highs and low lows, it is tough to decipher just what Austin’s legacy with the team will ultimately be.

He is the man almost singlehandedly responsible for the heightened expectations amongst a fan base that for the longest time was just happy to make the playoffs. Austin instilled a belief that this team was capable of winning the championship that has eluded them since Bret Hart retired from wrestling. Yet despite that, in the end he was never ever to bring the Grey Cup back to the steel city.

On top of that, he also oversaw one of the worst runs in franchise history, where the team lost their first eight games in 2017 and won just twice between Labour Days 2016 and 2017.

Maybe what Austin’s Ticats will be remembered for was never reaching their full potential. It all seemed like it was right there for the taking — and what I wouldn’t give to get a sneak peak at the alternative dimension where Collaros stays healthy in 2015 and wins MOP, while the Ticats finish 14-4 and roll to a Grey Cup title — but it never came to fruition.

But even that does a disservice to what he was able to accomplish during his time as head of all things football in Hamilton. There is no one thing that will define Austin’s time with the Ticats.

Austin’s legacy is a complex one, but I think I speak for most reasonable Ticats fans in saying that this franchise is better for having been under the stewardship of Kent Austin.

Josh Smith

Josh Smith

Josh has been writing about the Ticats and the CFL since 2010 and was sporting his beard way before it was cool. Will be long after, too.
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Josh Smith
About Josh Smith (333 Articles)
Josh has been writing about the Ticats and the CFL since 2010 and was sporting his beard way before it was cool. Will be long after, too.

27 Comments on Kent Austin’s Ticats legacy a complex one

  1. Why was this consultant decision kept so hush hush, a surprise media release that not even DREW EDWARDS had the inside scoop from his inside sources !?!?

  2. Just saying // April 15, 2018 at 10:53 am //

    Who knows what could have been if Collaros didn’t get hurt? But I think everybody knows that Kent is an amazing coach and motivator if winning, but if your losing he seams to beat down his players with verbal abuse just like when he played.

    • Yes, Just Saying, I think that is a very accurate assessment. When he was losing, his temper consumed him and his demeanour changed. He didn’t have the patience to withstand two or three losses in a row, and this was taken out on his players. At the end of his coaching tenure, his smug sneers and smirks to those asking him questions became both creepy and entertaining at the same time. At that time you could see that he was overburdened physically and mentally. I still believe he will re-surface and contribute substantially to another team.

  3. A complex tenure for a complex man

  4. I don’t know why so many posters complain about Austin’s temper when losing. Someone coined the phrase “show me a good loser, and I will show you a loser”. I never had a problem with his authentic intensity. I do prefer Trestman’s cool to Austin’s heat but I find it hard to criticize a guy in a leadership position who finds losing unacceptable. I don’t buy the crap about disgruntled players and losing the room. I think that he was stubborn in not going to a run game and in not adapting the offence to buy Collaros time to make plays. These are legitimate knocks on his 2017 performance. I wish him well and I hope that he gets another chance as HC somewhere in the League.

    • Garney26 // April 15, 2018 at 1:04 pm //

      Agree so he showed emotion all he wanted was a winner in this town. I personally will miss him. I loved that he cared when no one else seemed to for years.

    • Puck Hog // April 15, 2018 at 9:04 pm //

      Amicus, you don’t have to be happy about a loss. You don’t have to go ballistic and alienate every player on your team, either. As noted, look at Tressman’s demeanour..

    • Well Abacus, I had a problem with him “bumping” an opposing player after a game, and getting suspended. I also had a problem with him attempting to slug an official during a game. Not to mention his after game interviews with the press reeked with arrogance, disrespect…and just plain damn rudeness. But then again, that’s me.

  5. Lennywasout // April 15, 2018 at 11:28 am //

    I am glad he is/was with us. I may not like his media demeanour but I think he’s a smart football person. I wish him nothing but the best fior him and his family.

  6. the majority of coaches that won championships in our league were even tempered guys under any situation, austin just never had that. if you look at say trestman for example during a game you can never tell whether hes winning or losing, you could always tell with austin how the team was doing.

  7. I liked Kent and his coaching , I broke bread with him personally a few times
    But
    If he liked a player – he stuck with him even when he was hurt , and when the performance of the hurt player was mediocre once he returned from his injury – well ? , that can hurt the team.

  8. Injuries are such a factor in contact sports, and they have such a huge effect on season outcomes. There is an element of luck with that question, just like bad things happen to good people and vice-versa. Being intense can be an asset to a coach, as long as you can think coolly during stress, and that intensity is mainly positive and not negative. Intensity is infectious, and an intense coach can make his players and his team more intense; again, an asset in a violent sport. However,if you cross the line to become visibly critical, it can bite you! I think Austin was a split personality; the cool, rational planner of rosters and gameplans, and the egotistical, over-excited, irrational abuser of players, opponents and officials. Not the kind of guy players will go through a wall for.

  9. Rider fan // April 15, 2018 at 12:18 pm //

    Not many coaches are long tenured. Wally Huff they the only true examples. The coaching is a very tough position. You have to be a good judge of character and have to know how to mesh all the personal together. Kent would be a good fit as gm in Montreal. He will find another spot

  10. Sea of Dead // April 15, 2018 at 12:59 pm //

    I appreciated what KA did for the franchise in his first 2.7 years. Unfortunately, it was all downhill after the Collaros injury and the man just could not adapt to the new reality that faced him … He continued to shove the ‘same-old-same-old’ down the throats of the team and its fans despite repeated failure and in the end it deservingly did him in.

    • Agree. He needed to re-vamp his strategy after consistently rolling snake eyes. His perpetual stubborness was his worst enemy.

  11. Glenn Chernick // April 15, 2018 at 1:48 pm //

    Interesting but respectful article Josh! Austin was one of my favourite Rider players & coaches. Although he did rub people the wrong way at times. He is a true competitor!

  12. As far as I’m concerned we did win a Grey Cup under Austin . A terrible terrible call that will haunt Kent for years. I always felt the team was in good hands with Kent around .

    • Steve J. // April 15, 2018 at 2:44 pm //

      Agreed, Brian. I was at that Grey Cup and was sitting right in front of the so called “infraction”. It was marginal at best and had no bearing whatsoever on the outcome of the play. Calgary owned the first half, but Hamilton won the second half, and should have won the game. That being said, if my Grandmother had wheels she’d be a bus. The flag was thrown, the play stood, and Austin’s legacy in Hammer did not have a fairly tale ending. Likewise, If Ed Gainey had not mysteriously fallen on his a** as if he’d been shot by some phantom sniper during the final seconds of the 2015 East Semi, we’d have been to three straight finals. Honourable mention goes to Arnold Gascon-Nadon for dropping that beachball on the Ticats five yard line during the series that would sealed the deal. Austin was solid at the helm but just could not adjust to the idea of a balanced running game once Collaros went down.

      • Guess I must have been sitting next to you Steve because that debacle unfolded right in front of me as well! Only reason that Reed was flagged was because Stumpy special teams player McCartney decided to jump up and down like he had just been shot in the ass with a howitzer once Banks had decisively blown right by him, using Reed’s contact to grab the ref’s attention. It was a desperate act…and it worked…ethics aside as he knew he was beaten, and, as you said, it had no bearing on the play itself. We won’t even get into the fact that McCartney was 3-4 yards away from Banks, encroaching the 5 yard limit when he caught the punt…an obvious foul NOT called. Stumpy fans of course conveniently forget that fact. As far as the bumbling, stumbling Gainey, he had help alongside the equally bumbling, stumbling Davis. That play for me personified the 16 years (at the time) of frustration of not winning a GC in this city. Gascon-Nadon? Guy still owes me a TV set after I planted my foot in mine after he inexplicably dropped that Henry Burris gift. And yes, Austin’s version of a “balanced” running game, meaning 10% run and 90% pass ,doomed him after the (former TC) 1.4 m dollar man went down. Having no back up contingency plan for a back up QB, by leaving his starter in meaningless games already won to pad the stats (and I’m sure pissed off the CFL Football Gods in the process) certainly didn’t help either. Austin’e legacy for me unfortunately is would have, should have…but didn’t. 18 years…and counting…sigh.

        • Sea of Dead // April 16, 2018 at 12:32 pm //

          A nice summary of each TC fan’s most nightmarish memories during KA’s tenure. He’s not to blame for the misplays but that’s something that will linger in our thoughts until someone finally turns this thing around and we win it all. Let’s hope that happens sometime in the near future … After all , the players and coaching staff aren’t getting any younger and a major team overhaul is at most just a couple of seasons away.

  13. In 3 years at Cornell University before he came to the Ticats, Ken was 11 and 19. Not a very endorsing record. Articles that i have read from other papers suggested that at league meeetings, other G.M.s and league officials would be turned off by his arrogance and his “my way or the highway!”
    I had so much hope in 2013. Playing in Guelph and practising at McMaster University for a year certainly help. Good luck Ken.

  14. Purrfect // April 15, 2018 at 6:38 pm //

    The moment I’ll remember most from KA’s time in Hamilton is after the 2014 Grey Cup and the bogus call. He reminded the media, with complete class, how the impact of the call affects the men in the dressing room.

    • Do you really believe that? If get Austin truly believed the call was wrong he would have blown a gasket. He wuld have been pushing, punching and animated in the post game presser. They only people who think that was a bogus call are a few select cat fans and angry, jealous ridernation

      • I’m one of those “few select cat fans” Mr red…and it was a total horseshit call…but not surprising as I had predicted prior to the game that TC nemesis extraordinaire Mr. Proulx would somehow have a negative effect on the game from a TC standpoint…and the rest is history as they say.

        • Proulx did not make that call, another official threw the flag. I saw quite the discussion between AP and the other official, most likely to see if he would pick up his flag. IIRC, the Referee cannot overrule a call by another official, but he CAN persuade the official to negate the flag.

          • I am aware of that Aaron…and even though Proulx didn’t actually make the call the Proulx factor was still evident. There was about as much chance of Proulx persuading the official to negate the flag as there is Trump inviting Jong Un over for dinner.

  15. Purrfect// Bogus call? Maybe a ticky tack call for that late in the Championship contest, but no Reed did make contact in the back near the point of attack and I like Taylor Reed he stood up like a Man and a real pro after the fact but he did not need to make contact the player was not fast enough to make that play on Banks but that is conjecture on my part and a lot of Cat Fans.

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