The Edmonton Elks have given head coach and general manager Chris Jones a vote of confidence following the departure of president and CEO Victor Cui as Tom Richards, the chair of the team’s board of directors, described his job security as “solid.”
“I’d like to see him win some games, sure, but he wants to win some games, too,” Richards told the media on Tuesday. “I don’t think anybody including him saw where we are today but confidence remains in Chris Jones. This is the better way for us — in the future, right now — is to keep Chris Jones.”
The Elks cleaned house following the 2021 season when they fired president Chris Presson, general manager Brock Sunderland, and head coach Jaime Elizondo, which has since hampered the team’s ability to hire coaches and personnel staff under the CFL’s operations cap. Richards didn’t deny that the financial constraints caused by the cap could be a factor in the team’s decision to keep Jones, though he remains a proponent of the rule.
“It’s a difficult limitation that all CFL teams have to deal with. I think there are other teams in the league that are also looking at it, like if we had a different rule in place, maybe they would make a change. But I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to talk with Coach Jones and what some of the challenges are that he’s dealing with,” said Richards.
“At times, I don’t think people are happy (with the operations cap). Sometimes they’re happy with it, sometimes they’re not happy with it. You’d have to go back in the history of why the rule was created and I think some teams were just getting a little bit silly on some of their spending, so just like a player cap, it was an attempt to slow down (spending). Different structures are governed a little bit differently from an internal standpoint, so we needed to have a rule for everybody to follow and I do think it was a wise decision.”
Richards indicated that the severance payments to Sunderland and Elizondo are “very close” to being complete, though he was unsure of exactly when they will conclude. He also expressed his belief that the operations cap will remain in place for the foreseeable future.
Edmonton remains 0-9 on the year and have lost a remarkable 22 consecutive home games dating back to 2019. The club currently ranks ninth league-wide in points scored, eighth in points allowed, ninth in net offence, ninth in net offence allowed, ninth in penalty yards, tied for seventh in turnovers, tied for eighth in takeaways, ninth in field goal percentage, and ninth in net punting average.
“Chris has faced some challenges this year with this young team, for sure. We’re starting to see some of the pieces come together but they’re not all together yet,” said Richards. “There are great signs that things are improving on the field and at the front office, that’s what we’re going to build around is some positives that are happening on the field.”
Richards denied that the team is in financial trouble as the club’s reserve fund remains in excess of $10 million. However, he acknowledged that there are some financial concerns as the club recorded a net operating loss of $3.3 million in 2022. The franchise is community-owned, which doesn’t appear likely to change anytime soon as Richards indicated the Elks are not considering pursuing private ownership.
The team plans to hire an interim president and CEO in the next two to three weeks before making a permanent hire before the end of the year. Richards declined to provide any specific reasons for Cui’s departure, which has been termed as a mutual decision.
The Elks (0-9) are scheduled to visit the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on Thursday, Aug. 17 with kickoff slated for 7:30 p.m. EDT.