Ownership will test its meddle

ERIC FRANCIS -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:59 AM ET

Ted Hellard's hands trembled and Tom Higgins was close to tears as the Stamps organization hit a new low yesterday.

Stopping short of making the embarrassing admission Higgins was indeed a lame-duck coach as Hellard previously denied, the Stamps managing partner apologized for the way things were handled as his organization drove a good, respectable man out of town.

Departing with the sort of dignity and class the Stamps organization is clearly lacking once again, Higgins said yesterday he had turned down a token public-relations role after being let go as head coach.

What he leaves behind is a mess that will now see the pins start to fall in the most predictable of fashions.

Shortly after the Grey Cup moratorium on announcements is over, Hellard will announce he's stepping back.

A Sun source confirms he has been told in no uncertain terms he's no longer wanted as the face of the owners.

Seen by everyone as a meddlesome force whose presence on the sideline and practice field was reminiscent of Fred Fateri, ownership finally realizes Hellard is representative of the exact thing their new regime was trying to distance itself from after "rescuing" the club from Michael Feterik.

Granted, he meant well, and as a businessman he deserves full marks for helping stabilize the franchise. It's just that, right or wrong, no one likes owners wearing team togs or discussing things that should be left to football people alone.

His embarrassing denial of Sun reports that John Hufnagel had long ago agreed to terms as the next head coach only served to solidify his fate, which is why he tried to temper his imminent departure by suggesting Monday he's more comfortable with the idea of "stepping back."

The club will then likely announce Scott Ackles as their president, followed by the official welcoming of Hufnagel as head coach and overseer of football operations.

He certainly adds credibility.

Adding further insult to Higgins is the fact a source has confirmed ownership sealed the deal with Hufnagel Labour Day weekend, meaning the coach was football's version of dead man walking the last ten weeks of the season.

No wonder Higgins had little power to stop late-season decisions like the one to rest star players the week before playoffs.

That was ownership's call.

When asked if he had the control to do the job Higgins paused, identifying it as a loaded question.

"At times it was better than others," he said, choosing not to bury the club that stabbed him in the back.

"It got better in year three than it did in year one and two. Still, some subtle changes needed to be made. I had enough input to be able to control my own destiny. We'll leave it at that."

Make no mistake, Higgins couldn't get the most out of a talented yet undisciplined group and needed to be let go. It's the classless way it has all been handled that has fans furious.

"In our local area maybe there's some perception that we are unstable, but across the league the Calgary organization is seen as a very stable organization," said Hellard, who admitted the coach could've used more power.

"We apologized to Tom for the turmoil that was caused over the last ten days regarding the coaching situation. It was an apology the man more than deserves.

"We have our own internal problems as to why this information got to where it shouldn't have and we'll fix that."

Let the repair work begin.


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