After defeating the Paris Legion in the first match of the Call of Duty League’s third stage on April 22, the Dallas Empire announced it had benched Huke and promoted FeLo to the starting lineup.
The news came as a shock to fans, players, and coaches alike and was met with much disapproval. At the time of the decision, the Empire briefly explained the move by saying the team felt that they were “playing below [their] potential.”
Mike “Hastr0” Rufail, the chief gaming officer of Envy, the Empire’s parent organization, elaborated a bit more to the Dallas Morning News, saying Huke was “holding back” progress the team needed to make.
“The whole reason behind this change, and I know a lot of the fans might be upset about it, is that these are professional players who have been in the scene for a long time and they felt like they could not make progress,” Rufail said. “They felt like other teams were catching up to the team and felt like there were issues with Cuyler holding back that progress.”
Huke had been a key member during the Empire’s championship run in the 2020 CDL Playoffs, as well as their second and third-place performances at the first two Majors of this season. The team changed in the offseason, however, when Dallas moved on from Clayster to comply with the league’s transition from a five-vs-five format to one featuring four-person teams.
The team’s communication was mentioned as a part of the squad that’s expected to improve with FeLo. Empire head coach Rambo, whose name was tied to the team’s statement in which they benched Huke, said he feels confident in the move.
“I took at a lot of crap, but I’m the coach and GM, so if anyone is going to have fingers pointed at them it’s going to be me,” Rambo said. “It’s not very fun but it is part of the role. But if it pans out the way we think it will, and it’s not easy for everyone to see right now, then it will be a step in the right direction.”
The Empire lost their first match with FeLo to the Toronto Ultra yesterday. They have three remaining matches in Stage Three group play, the next of which is against the Los Angeles Guerrillas on Saturday, May 1.