Higgins takes hit

GERRY PRINCE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:22 AM ET

Tom Higgins said it was all right. I still figure it's all wrong.

And there's a sizable group of Edmonton Eskimos fans and more than a few players out there who share that opinion.

Suggesting Higgins got a raw deal perhaps isn't a popular view. But I don't run my life based on what others think.

Watching Higgins resign Wednesday afternoon was arguably one of the most painful exercises I have witnessed.

The departure was orchestrated in typical Green and Gold fashion and made all the cleaner by the fact Higgins always sees the positive.

It was significantly cleaner than the hit that team president and CEO Hugh Campbell and his helpers at The Firm pulled on Don Matthews.

Of course, they never really did explain that one either. Poor, sick Don. He couldn't go on. Certainly not with his thyroid problem.

The football faithful bought it.

In default of any solid evidence to substantiate the rumours which continue to circulate, the media was left with no choice but to spout the party line.

The cleanup crews worked their magic and to this day everyone remains tight-lipped about the Don's departure.

Long on football tradition, the Esks are routinely short on detail. And the folks running that operation never misspeak or intentionally mislead the media.

They say the media never asks the right questions. It's all hair-splitting, really, and ridiculous beyond the pale.

It's all about optics in the image-conscious Esks camp. And Higgins opting to put a bullet in himself before Campbell had to do it made for a much prettier picture.

But it also made no sense.

The notion Higgins "lost the room" is open to debate.

The group he inherited in his rookie season of 2001 managed a first-place finish but lost the Western Final. Essentially the same group managed back-to-back 13-5-0 seasons, two trips to the Grey Cup and a championship last season.

Love the coach or hate him, the players' professionalism allowed them to get the job done and for Higgins to amass a 44-28-0-1 regular-season record.

MAXIMUS CONSERVATUS

Higgins was conservative to the max, played for field position and rarely gambled. When he rolled the dice on a fake punt in Sunday's Western Division semifinal, they came up snake eyes.

Sean Fleming completing the third and 19 gamble to Mike Bradley doesn't necessarily change the outcome of that game. The Esks still had 30 minutes in which to find the end zone but couldn't.

Naturally, there were other moves Higgins made over the course of his four years at the helm of the Green and Gold that raised eyebrows. By his own admission, he's a different cat. That could explain a lot or a little.

Still, Higgins has to rate as the winningest coach ever to tender his resignation - voluntarily or otherwise.

Higgins is certainly one of the few ever to resign because he felt the team was no longer marketable with him at the helm in the wake of the "call."

Higgins, Campbell and Esks COO Rick LeLacheur apparently arrived at that conclusion based on the anecdotal evidence of a letter-writing campaign and disgruntled season-ticket holders threatening to cancel if Higgins was the coach next season.

Sorry, but when the fans are calling the shots the inmates have clearly taken over the asylum.

If you put any stock in what Campbell says, attendance during Higgins' four-year run as head coach was up.

Keeping Higgins around wasn't likely going to kill the Esks at the gate.

But if it was, rather than bow to vocal majority and live in fear that a group might cancel their season tickets, why not make a concerted effort to put asses in the roughly 25,000 empty seats the Esks have for each home game.

TRIED AND CONVICTED

The mind boggles when you think public opinion is what drives the decision-making process at the Igloo.

In the final analysis, that's really is what this is all about. Higgins was tried and convicted in the court of public opinion and Campbell and LeLacheur bought the verdict.

What's even more disconcerting, when pressed on the subject during his media conference Campbell made no attempt to deal with that issue.

Instead Campbell went on about the settlement package between Higgins and the football club. Must have been another instance of the media not asking the right question.


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