The latest suggested nickname for Ottawa’s CFL expansion franchise isn’t doing it for Russ Jackson.
The Ottawa Red Blacks – or RedBlacks as was suggested on Twitter – was being mentioned prominently Monday in social media as a moniker for the CFL club slated to begin play in 2014. Neither was receiving much support from Ottawa football fans and Jackson, who led the Ottawa Rough Riders to three Grey Cup titles over his illustrious 12-year career with the franchise, wasn’t big on it either.
“The Red Blacks, to me, seems to get you to a soccer situation,” Jackson said. “I don’t know of a professional North American football club that’s named with just colours but that seems to be the one that’s bouncing around.”
Liverpool, one of the English Premier League’s top franchises, is called the Reds because of their red home kits. New Zealand’s Test rugby squad became known as the All Blacks in 1905 when switching from white to black shorts to go with its black top during a tour of the British Isles, France and Canada.
The NFL’s Cleveland Browns have brown in their colour scheme but the team is named after former head coach Paul Brown.
Unfortunately, the Ottawa club won’t be called Rough Riders. A condition of the city’s return to the CFL was the new franchise not use the original team name.
But Jackson, whose No. 12 was retired by his former club, would like to see the franchise maintain some traditions of the Rough Riders, which operated from 1876 to 1996 and won nine Grey Cups.
“I’m hoping they’ll keep the colours – the red, white and black – which it sounds like they’re going to,” the Hamilton native said. “I also thought it would be nice if they could maintain . . . the big R that was always a symbol of the Rough Riders on the helmets.”
It’s unclear when the Ottawa franchise will unveil a team name. Time is certainly on its side but the 76-year-old Jackson said a nickname is important because it can establish a team’s identity, on and off the field.
“I think people relate to it,” Jackson said. “I never did like the Renegades (which operated in Ottawa from 2002-’06), it never did strike me as something that really hit home for me.
“I guess you could pick any name and there’d be people who’d say it doesn’t hit home with them where others would say, ‘Yeah, I like it.’ It’s something you have to grow accustomed and used to. I just grew up with the Rough Riders . . . when you mentioned Rough Riders, you knew exactly what you were talking about.”
While a catchy team name is important, Jackson said the biggest factor in its success will be ownership. Jackson believes the expansion franchise is on very solid ground financially with Ottawa 67’s owner Jeff Hunt heading up the club’s group of owners.
“They’re Ottawa people, they’re not taking this on thinking they’re going to make millions of dollars,” Jackson said. “I really think the group that’s there now has the money to support it and is really interested.”
Hunt did not immediately return a telephone message Monday.
The Ottawa club is currently interviewing potential GM candidates. The successful applicant will not only be responsible for hiring a head coach but also begin stockpiling players.
Ottawa will select four NCAA underclassmen in this year’s CFL draft, then in December participate in a three-round expansion draft of players made available from the existing eight clubs. Then in 2014, the club will take part in the league’s Canadian college draft.
Again, Jackson said it’s imperative the Ottawa ownership group selects the right GM to ensure the team has a talented lineup when it kicks off play.
“They’re not going to be expected to win a Grey Cup right away but they’ve got to be competitive,” Jackson said. “ It’s really important they have someone on staff, whether it’s the general manager or a scout or whatever, who has that knowledge . . . because I think it’s going to be really important to get some top-flight players, one way or the other.”
When the 2014 season begins, the Ottawa team will be the third CFL club to play there. Jackson said this will be the league’s final try to put a successful franchise on the field in the national capital.
“I’ve always said Ottawa fans are great it was always ownership in my opinion that did them in,” Jackson said. “This is it, this is their last kick at the can and they better make it work but I really think they will.
“They’re going to have people in place with plenty of time to look at players and know exactly what they’re looking for and how they have to draft.”
And Jackson, for one, can’t wait for the CFL’s rebirth in Ottawa.
“I’m looking forward to going up there and seeing them play,” he said. “I’ll certainly be there for the first game.”
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