GEARY email@example.com_county.toronto.globe_and_mail 2003-12-10 published
The backroom brain of the Canadian Football League
For 37 years, he was 'Facts Fulton,' the head-office man who made things work and who wrote the complex rules that govern the Canadian Football League
By Dan RALPH, Canadian Press; Globe and Mail files Wednesday, December 10, 2003 - Page R5
For 16 years, former Canadian Football League commissioner Jake GAUDAUR never relied on a computer to draw up the league's regular-season schedule. Instead, he looked to Greg FULTON to do it in his head.
"We used to run it [the Canadian Football League schedule] in the computer for days," said Mr. GAUDAUR, who served as league commissioner from 1968 to 1983. "But in the final analysis, Greg would always have it worked out in his mind."
Mr. FULTON, who spent 54 years with the Canadian Football League as a player, statistician and historian, died in Toronto on Monday. It was his 84th birthday. The cause of death was not provided but he reportedly suffered a stroke last week that caused him to fall into a coma from which he never emerged.
"He worked behind the scenes and received so little credit," Mr. GAUDAUR said. "There was no one in Canadian history who knew as much about the league as Greg did."
Doug MITCHELL, who succeeded Mr. GAUDAUR as Canadian Football League commissioner in 1984, marvelled at Mr. FULTON's ability to draw up a Canadian Football League schedule.
"He did it on a sort of a blackboard," he recollected. "What the computer kicked out invariably never worked but Greg's schedules always did. It really was incredible."
Current Canadian Football League commissioner Tom WRIGHT said Mr. FULTON's passion and commitment were an inspiration. "While he served our league with distinction and honour, he will best be remembered for the warmth of his smile, the wit of his stories, and the depth of his recollections."
Mr. FULTON, a Winnipeg native, moved to Calgary in 1930 and began his career as a player with the Stampeders in 1939. During the Second World War, he served with the Calgary Regiment of the First Canadian Armoured Brigade and participated in the abortive Dieppe raid on August 19, 1942.
Returning home in peacetime, he attended the University of Alberta to get a bachelor of commerce degree and soon after found a job with Revenue Canada.
So, how exactly did a Calgary tax man end up as one of the Canadian Football League's most influential people? It started with a love affair for facts and figures that first led to a part-time job in Calgary as a statistician for the Stampeders. When Clark DAVEY, who was later appointed to the Senate, was appointed in 1966 as the Canadian Football League's first full-time commissioner, he lured Mr. FULTON to Toronto.
Sen. DAVEY "made some quick enemies because he was outspoken and the job wasn't really ready for him," Mr. FULTON told former Globe and Mail sportswriter Marty YORK. So 54 days after he took the job, much of which consisted of feuding with Canadian Football League officials, Sen. DAVEY resigned. Mr. FULTON was kept on under Mr. GAUDAUR, Sen. DAVEY's successor.
"Jake usually approaches me every day to ask me something," Mr. FULTON once said in an interview. "A lot of the times, I think he knows the answers to the questions he is asking, but I think he might feel better if he hears something from me. I guess you could call me his confidant, but there are times when I do mention something that he has overlooked and that often can have an effect on the league and the fans."
What was most important, wrote Marty YORK in 1981, was Mr. FULTON's status as assistant commissioner -- a title he did not hold but a role he filled seven days a week. A walking Canadian Football League encyclopedia, he was soon nicknamed Facts Fulton. He was also known as Jake GAUDAUR's memory bank.
When Mr. GAUDAUR became commissioner, he delegated a number of the commissioner's key duties to Mr. FULTON who already administered the pension funds and had the challenging task of drawing up the Canadian Football League schedule. Consequently, the nine Canadian Football League general managers became accountable to Mr. FULTON.
He was authorized to issue orders, regulations and memoranda to all club officials, including coaches and players. Also, he was responsible for roster control, player personnel, registration of all contracts, waiver procedures, negotiation lists and draft lists.
"He did the work of three people but the last thing he wanted to do was talk about it," Mr. GAUDAUR said.
At the same time, however, Mr. FULTON was a confessed nag. "I wouldn't be doing my job if I wasn't," he once said.
Managers of Canadian Football League clubs across the country sometimes came to dread the sound of the phone ringing. "He'll bug you when he calls to remind you that you didn't do such-and-such a thing," said Montreal Alouette general manager Bob GEARY in 1981. "It gets on your nerves sometimes, but I guess if he didn't do that kind of stuff, no one would, and we'd be suffering more than we do."
Mr. FULTON was also something of a Canadian Football League policeman who had to lay down league laws. At one time, Canadian Football League clubs were strictly limited about who could attend training camps. Under the terms of an agreement with the Canadian Football League Players Association, clubs were allowed to conduct pre-training-camp practices only for rookies, quarterbacks and veterans who had surgery the previous year. Veterans were allowed to work out on their own, but coaches were forbidden to order them to participate. In a case in which the Argo felt they had good reason to start camp early, Mr. FULTON had to consult his regulations.
"I told them it was fine," he decreed. "As long as the veterans were running around on their own."
Clubs that violated pre-training-camp rules by practicing with veterans faced fines, he said.
All things considered, though, it was drawing up the schedule that was Mr. FULTON's most time-consuming job. It was also the one for which he suffered the most criticism.
"I've never yet been able to satisfy everyone with the schedule," he said. "I'm convinced that that's impossible because of the uniqueness of our league. We only have nine teams, which means that one team has to sit out every week. Also, because some of our clubs play in stadiums where baseball and soccer are played, I have to work the schedule around that too."
In 1990, Mr. FULTON received the first Commissioner's Award for his contribution to football in Canada. Five years later, he was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in the builder's category. In 1995, he was named the honorary secretary-treasurer and was active in head office as a consultant and historian until his death.
Mr. FULTON, who was reappointed by the Canadian Football League to his primary role about 10 times eight times, sometimes felt guilty about his job because he puts it ahead of everything else in his life.
"I've never been able to take an extended holiday," he said in 1981. "But I wouldn't change it for anything in the world... I'm one of those rare people who actually enjoys his job."
To a sometimes troubled league, he was a godsend.
"Thank goodness we have a guy like him," Bob GEARY told Marty YORK. "I hate to think what would happen to us if he wasn't around."
Mr. FULTON leaves children Robert, Byrne and Rebecca. He was predeceased by wife Angela BOMBARDIERI in 1990. Funeral details are pending.
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