Higgins hopes to finish job

DAN TOTH -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 8:37 AM ET

Henry Burris isn't the only Calgary Stampeder who could get sacked.

According to the team, everyone and everything, including the head-coaching position, is being re-evaluated, although it seems unlikely the club will implode what has been built over the past two years.

A season ago, Tom Higgins was praised for his fine work in turning a sorry football club into a winner. So much so he was awarded coach of the year honours.

Twelve months later, the same head coach of the Stampeders finds himself in an almost identical situation after another second-place finish in the CFL West.

Yet this time the Stamps bench boss is defending his record and lobbying to remain coach after falling 30-21 to the Saskatchewan Roughriders in Sunday's West semifinal.

"There's no question in my mind right now that I'd like to continue to coach," said Higgins, who also holds the title of senior v.p. of football operations.

The original plan two seasons ago had Higgins coaching the team in its inaugural year under the new ownership group, then stepping aside for defensive co-ordinator Denny Creehan to take over.

Ownership chose instead to give Higgins a second year at the helm after a 11-7 record in 2005, despite a disappointing flop in the West semifinal.

President and part-owner Ted Hellard said after a second semifinal face-plant Sunday the club is now re-evaluating everyone's role.

Higgins said he's anxious to carry on as head coach to oversee the work that remains before the Stamps can contend for a Grey Cup. Whether the Stamps want to keep him in either of his current roles remains to be seen.

"I'm not sure people understand the dynamics of what it takes (to build a championship team)," said Higgins.

"This is a project that's still underway, still in the stages of being put together, and I'd sure hate like heck not to finish it.

"You can only impact an organization so much in certain roles. Being on the sidelines, you have the greatest impact as far as how the players respect one another, how they play, how they do what they need to do to be successful.

"I don't know if enough credit has been given to the coaching staff to take this group of football players and come in second. Maybe unrealistic expectations were put upon the football team ... but we were a couple of turnovers short of being able to win this game."

Higgins said he knew in Year 1 of the rebuilding program he wanted to remain in the position long-term.

"Probably in the first year (I realized) that there's still a job to be done and the person to do it would be the person who started there," said Higgins, who won a Grey Cup as head coach of the Edmonton Eskimos in 2003.

Creehan had a team option in his contract to become the head coach in 2006 and '07, although it was not exercised by the club.

The team renegotiated the contracts of Creehan and offensive co-ordinator Steve Buratto prior to this season to make them both associate head coaches in addition to their original roles.

Creehan has a clause in his deal, which is quite common to CFL coaches, that allows him to leave if he accepts a head coaching job elsewhere.

Opportunities could be plentiful.

There are already head coaching jobs open in Hamilton and Montreal.


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