Where have you gone, Kent Austin?

By Teri Pecoskie, The Hamilton Spectator

Kent Austin has spent little time in Hamilton since his departure as vice-president of football operations in April, despite continuing to work as a consultant for the Tiger-Cats.

So, where is he? And what does he do in his new role?

Since Austin wouldn’t agree to an interview, The Spectator spoke with team CEO Scott Mitchell to find out the latest on the 55-year-old former head coach. Here are a handful of interesting takeaways from that conversation:

1. He moved back to Tennessee

According to Mitchell, Austin is living in his hometown of Brentwood, Tenn., where he played high school football at Brentwood Academy. He said he has returned to Hamilton “a couple of times” since his resignation, but other team employees could only recall seeing him once — on July 28, when the Ticats hosted the Ottawa Redblacks. Mitchell hopes the retired quarterback will be back in the city another time or two before the end of this season, likely during the playoffs. He also said Austin “felt like it was time to get back down to the States and take a deep breath, and this was a good opportunity to do that while still being part of the organization.”

2. His job description is pretty straightforward

When asked to explain what Austin does in his role as a consultant, the Ticats CEO said he helps in any way the organization needs him to, “but mostly that entails he and I having an ongoing relationship and discussion.” So, that’s it? You just talk to him? “That’s it. When I need a voice or an ear and I have someone to chat about, we have a good chat.” Recent topics include the potential impact the startup Alliance of American Football and players on the team’s negotiation list. Mitchell also went on to say Austin communicates regularly with assistant general manager Shawn Burke and GM Eric Tillman, and he “wouldn’t be surprised if he’s had a chat or two with some of the players.” That said, he’s unequivocally hands off where coaching is concerned.

3. But, it could evolve in the future

Twice during our conversation, Mitchell said the Ticats would like Austin to do some scouting for the team. That could happen as early as this fall. As for whether his job description could further evolve, he said everything from “I think he’s in a good space” and “It’s up to Kent” to “He does what we need him to do, and at the same time he might end up doing more on a going forward basis.” Pressed to clarify, Mitchell added: “He and I talk all the time about what he wants to do next, and I think he’s thinking about whether he wants to coach and where that would be. He’s got lots of opportunities in the States, both in college and pro football, so he’s taking his time working that out.”

4. He is still being paid his old salary

Austin signed a contract extension in early 2016 to remain the Ticats head coach, general manager and vice-president of football operations through the end of the 2019 season. Since the team is a private business it does not publicly disclose compensation, however, it is fair to assume the four-time Grey Cup winner made significantly more in his triple role than June Jones, who recently disclosed he was paid $100,000 in his first half-season as head coach alone. So, likely north of $250,000 per campaign. Whatever the number, Mitchell confirmed Austin is receiving his full pay for the duration of his contract term.

5. He deserves some R&R

Mitchell called Austin’s move an opportunity to “take a deep breath” twice in our conversation and said he hopes the veteran coach is “putting his feet up a little bit, just taking some time out.” Why? Is everything OK? It appears so. While Mitchell wouldn’t answer any questions about Austin’s health, he did caution against reading anything into his comments. He simply means Austin did a lot of great things in Hamilton — everything from getting Jones here, to re-signing several big name free agents in the off-season — and deserved to move into a consulting role with a little less day-to-day stress.

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