Ticats support Will Hill in wake of suspension

Kent Austin says Will Hill is sorry.

The Hamilton Tiger-Cats vice president of football operations and head coach stood up for his player on Tuesday after CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie suspended the defensive back one game for grabbing an official during last Saturday’s loss in Regina.

“Will’s been a great teammate. Will made a mistake,” Austin said. “There’s no excuse for that level of behaviour. When you’re in the wrong, it’s important that you demonstrate maturity in the form of humility and contrition. That demonstrates that you get it and that you know have the chance to change any behaviour that needs to be changed.”

Hill wasn’t at practice on Tuesday and was unavailable to media due to what the team said was a family matter unrelated to the suspension.

The suspension is effective immediately, meaning Hill will miss Hamilton’s home opener Saturday against the B.C. Lions unless he decides to appeal. If Hill chooses to do so, he’d be able to continue playing unless the ruling was upheld by an independent arbitrator.

Austin said he didn’t know if Hill planned to appeal and CFL Players’ Association representatives were unavailable for comment. Ambrosie also fined Hill an unspecified amount for punching a Saskatchewan player on the same play.

The ruling was issued quickly and Austin said he appreciated how Ambrosie, who played nine years in the CFL, handled his first major test.

“I have great respect for the new commissioner and the fact that he’s played the game,” Austin said. “We respect the league’s decision.”

Reaction across the league was decidedly mixed, however, with many feeling that Hill got off light. But Ambrosie may have been concerned that a harsher punishment would have been struck down by an arbitrator after former commissioner Jeffery Orridge failed to suspend Austin for making contact with an official during a game in Regina last September.

Instead, Orridge fined Austin $10,000 and banished him to the spotter’s booth for one game.

In a statement issued Tuesday, Ambrosie said he’s committed to developing a policy that would set standards to protect officials and outline punishments for infractions. Austin, who is a member of the league’s rules committee, said that would eliminate some of the guesswork that plagues the current system.

“We can do a better job at bringing more definitive process and construct around certain violations as opposed to it always being an ambiguous application of a penalty that doesn’t have any established precedent — because the precedents have been all over the place — that can be vetted by the operators of the league,” Austin said. “Bringing more form and definitive penalty to very black-and-white issues would be very beneficial to the league.”