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 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.