Stamps give Higgins the reins

DAN TOTH -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 7:42 AM ET

The man who triggered the Calgary Stampeders' sensational turnaround in 2005 will be back next CFL season and beyond.

Now if only Tom Higgins, head coach/senior v.p. of football operations, can keep the rest of his staff on board.

"I would like for that to happen," Higgins said yesterday after the club announced he had signed a multi-year contract extension, details of which weren't released as per club policy.

"If it can happen, we have a chance to be at a much higher level than we were at the start of this football season. Because of the way we built and the way we ended the season, I feel we could pick up somewhere in that accelerated stage and having the same coaching staff would help to do that. If it weren't to be the case, then we'll make whatever adjustments we need to."

Those adjustments could be substantial should either defensive co-ordinator Denny Creehan or offensive boss Steve Buratto find employment elsewhere. Both received rave reviews for their work with the Stamps this season as the club posted an 11-7 record before hosting the West semifinal, a renaissance after three dismal campaigns.

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers, looking to fill their vacant head coaching chair, have asked permission to speak to both co-ordinators but as of last night had talked to neither.

Bombers GM Brendan Taman is expected to meet with candidates later this week in Vancouver. Creehan is scheduled to attend the CFL player awards Thursday night in support of Stamps linebacker John Grace, up for defensive player of the year honours.

Creehan had expressed his ambition to be promoted to the head coaching job in Calgary, or elsewhere, and said Higgins' extension hasn't altered those aspirations.

"My goals haven't changed and that is to be a head coach eventually," Creehan said. "That hasn't changed just because something good has happened to Tom. In the meantime, I'm perfectly happy to be here."

It had been rumoured there were opposing views within the Stampeders ownership group as to whether Higgins should remain in both roles or relinquish the head coaching duties in 2006 despite the team's success on the field. The former Edmonton Eskimos head coach said he was unaware of those rumblings but had stipulated before joining the team last off-season he wanted both jobs in Calgary.

"When I first came last year, they wanted for me to take just one role, not two," Higgins said.

"I felt it was very important to be able to be hands-on and I don't think I would have been able to impact the football operations the way we just did if I didn't have the opportunity to be on the sidelines. Very stubbornly, I stuck to my guns and asked for both and was granted both. I don't believe in any discussions had after the season was over that anybody thought it should be different than the way it was because it went very well."

Higgins added his new deal does not stipulate when he will opt out of coaching in favour of a singular administrative role.

"There is a lot of flexibility built into it, there can be movement but it has no time stipulation at all," Higgins said.


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