Originally created 08/24/02

Decision not to play affects personnel



When Augusta Stallions coach Mike Hold heard owner Frank Lawrence was suspending operations of the team for at least the 2003 season, he was glad to be in Peoria, Ill.

Hold was at a league-wide season-ending awards banquet, where he anticipated seeing the arenafootball2 league's 33 other owners.

"I guess I'm in the right place at the right time," Hold said in a phone interview Thursday.

Hold and general manager Darrell Harbin, who have both been with the Stallions for two years, are searching for jobs now that the Stallions have gone dormant.

The list of Stallions employees looking for new jobs extends beyond Hold and Harbin, including marketing director Shane Martinez, ticket manager Jenny Mercer, account executive and promotions director Jim Lambright and account executive Bryan Whitmore.

"We regret it, but they just have to find another job," Lawrence said. "That's the reality when these things happen."

The Augusta-Richmond County Coliseum Authority presented Lawrence with a new lease offer Aug. 20. Lawrence rejected the contract, saying it would hurt his team's revenue potential.

"I understand both sides," third-year lineman Blaine Mensch said. "The coliseum authority is saying one thing, but (Lawrence is) not even coming back with another offer. If he really wanted it to go on next season, he'd have another offer on the table.

"But in the respect that he's not getting all that (advertising and concession) money, I can kind of see that, too."

Hold said he was shocked to hear Thursday that the team would not be back next season. After all, his teams had a 22-11 record, and former coach Mike Neu's inaugural squad went 13-4. In three seasons, the Stallions were 35-15 with two playoff appearances.

"We're one of the top four or five teams in the league," Hold said. "It just makes you wonder if a team that has everything going for it in that respect isn't going to play, what else is going on around the league? That part of it is what scares me. If a successful organization is in trouble, how about the ones that aren't (successful)?"

Hold said he doesn't believe Lawrence will bring the team back in 2004. Hold cited the Augusta Lynx's exclusive advertising rights inside the civic center as the main reason.

"I don't think the issues that are causing him to go dormant can be solved in a year," Hold said. "To me if (permanent signage) is a problem this year, I don't know how it's going to be any different next year. From what I understand, hockey has had control over that for quite some time."

Second-year wide receiver/defensive back Tim Dumas said most of the players were unfazed by Lawrence's move, because they are vying for jobs in the Arena Football League or another league. Dumas did say, though, the decision is a big blow for the Stallions fans.

"It's sad, because the fans were really there for us," he said. "I know Mr. Lawrence has his reasons, but I feel sorry for the fans."

Stallions booster club president Bill Pronevitch said he will not be waiting for Lawrence to bring the Stallions back.

"If the Stallions don't show in 2003, I'm not showing in 2004," Pronevitch said. "I'm not going to be held hostage. ... It's like the big bully on the street corner saying, 'It's my ball, and if you don't want to play to my rules, then I'm taking my ball and going home."'

Reach Chris Gay at (706) 868-1222, Ext. 114.