TORONTO — Former CFL commissioner J. Donald Crump has died at age 78. The league confirmed his passing in a statement Friday. The cause of death wasn’t divulged, but Crump died Thursday at Southlake Regional Health Centre in Newmarket, Ont. “On behalf of our league, I want to express my heartfelt sympathies to the family of John Donald Crump on the occasion of his passing,” CFL commissioner Mark Cohon said. “Mr. Crump, who served as financial officer of Maple Leaf Gardens, was commissioner of the Canadian Football League from January 1990 through December 1991. It was a colourful time in the CFL, perhaps best remembered for the splash made by the Candy-Gretzky-McNall owned Toronto Argonauts, who captured the 1991 Grey Cup in grand style. We wish his wife Erma McPherson, children and grandchildren, comfort and peace at this difficult time.” Crump was named the eighth commissioner in CFL history Jan. 5 1990, replacing president and chief operating officer Bill Baker. A quiet, soft-spoken man, Crump did his best to try and take over from the gregarious Baker, bringing a bullwhip with him to the podium to announce his appointment.
It was during Crump’s tenure that the Ottawa Rough Riders were sold to Detroit businessmen Bernie and Lonie Glieberman, entrepreneur Larry Ryckman took over the Calgary Stampeders and Bruce McNall, John Candy and Wayne Gretzky purchased the Argos.
But following a series of questionable and unpopular moves, the Gliebermans were out of Ottawa, although they’d eventually return after spending time running a CFL franchise in Shreveport, La. The Stampeders flourished on the field under Ryckman but he sold the club in 1996 through a voluntary receivership to help take care of the debts the team inherited when he became owner.
In 1991, the Argos won the Grey Cup for their celebrity owners but by 1994 the club was sold to TSN Enterprises and McNall pleaded guilty to charges of fraud and was sentenced to 70 months in jail.
Crump remained as commissioner through December 1991 before being replaced by former CFL player Larry Smith.
Crump, who also worked as an executive with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, was born in Toronto and played football, hockey and basketball as a youngster.
He became a chartered accountant in 1958 and took a job with the federal government the next year, joining the National Revenue Department (now the Canada Revenue Agency), where he remained until 1967.
Crump was hired as treasurer of Maple Leaf Gardens Ltd., in 1971 and served as chief financial officer until 1990. His association with the Tiger-Cats began in 1978 when Harold Ballard purchased the CFL team. Crump handled many of the team’s business dealings throughout Ballard’s years as owner and was instrumental in the sale of the club in 1989 to Hamilton businessman David Braley, who now owns both the B.C. Lions and Toronto Argos.
There are two visitation sessions Sunday from 2-4 p.m. and 7-9 p.m. at the Dixon-Garland Funeral Home in Markham, Ont. The memorial service will be held there Monday morning.