Higgins booted by Stamps

IAN BUSBY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:19 AM ET

Coaching football is in Tom Higgins' blood, and chances are he'll be doing that as an opponent of the Calgary Stampeders next year.

Higgins was fired as head coach of the horsemen yesterday and will leave the organization after turning down a non-football role of executive vice-president.

His decision was made after a family meeting with wife Sharon and three kids -- Holly, Hillary and Thomas, who works in the Stampeders video department.

"It was unanimous that this (new role) would not make me happy," Higgins said. "Where I find my greatest joy is interacting with pro football players.

"It's risky because (getting fired) can happen. You never get used to it but it is one of the things that happens."

When Higgins was brought on as head coach and senior vice-president of football operations, the franchise was an on-field mess. Under Higgins, the team had seasons of 11-7, 10-8 and 7-10-1 this year but lost in the first round of the playoffs each time.

It became increasingly clear the head coach wasn't the singular voice on football matters, and towards the end of the season reports leaked out John Hufnagel would replace Higgins.

Stampeders president Ted Hellard said an announcement on a new head coach would be made in due time, likely a day or two after the Grey Cup is played, and that the new man would have more power.

"One of the relatively painful processes I've learned from over the last three years ... is that the next head coach will have full and total control over all football decisions," said Hellard. "There were a few more people involved."

With a couple of CFL head-coaching jobs expected to be open next season -- Montreal and Toronto as possibilities -- Higgins is going to take his chances on the open market, but added he doesn't have a plan yet.

"I'm hoping something presents itself and hopefully it's a situation we can possibly make better," Higgins said.

"When I say we, I mean Sharon and I. Our two girls are not coming with us no matter where we go because they are settled here. Thomas is thinking about going to university."

Before coaching his final game with the Stamps, Higgins said he could leave having no regrets.

"One regret is not having the chance to say good-bye to the players, so I'll do that through the media," Higgins said, admitting the situation cast a pall over the organization.

"It really seems this has gone on for a month and we had to deal with a situation that didn't have to happen. It happened, and we had to deal with a black cloud hanging over our heads.

"At no time did I think we weren't doing a good job of making sure the athletes stay focused. The last third of our season was a huge challenge.

"But I can say this team is in better shape than when we took it over."

Hellard said if Higgins doesn't find a coaching job, he is welcome to take the executive vice-president role.

"We respect him as a man and he was singlehandedly responsible for much of the improvement in increasing the credibility of our players and the credibility of committing to the community," Hellard said.

"In the next 60 days, we would like to get him back in the fold. It wouldn't surprise me to see him on the other sideline at least once next year in Calgary.

"On the coaching side, we will be moving forward."


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