EDMONTON - The Edmonton Eskimos have filled their vacant general manager position with Eric Tillman.
The announcement was made Tuesday at Commonwealth Stadium.
Tillman, who guided three teams to Grey Cup championships, pleaded guilty last January to sexually assaulting his 16-year-old babysitter back in August 2008.
He was given an absolute discharge and did not receive a criminal conviction.
"The football decision was very easy," said Eskimos president and CEO Rick LeLacheur. "However, as we all know, this was not an easy decision. In terms of the community response, it has been a very tough and difficult call."
LeLacheur estimated that up to two-thirds of the phone calls and e-mails received at the Eskimos office were opposed to the decision.
"Not only do I understand that, I respect it," said Tillman. "I have a family, I have a daughter. I understand that girls and women are precious. And I understand that the people of this community not only value winning but just as much they value the good name of the organization.
"There was no intent, no malice. I put myself in a position, with medicines, to do something incredibly stupid.
"I hurt my family, the Rider Nation, the entire CFL. I learned being part of this league is a privilege, not a right.
"The most important thing I learned, the lesson I will teach my children, is the importance of compassion, forgiveness, not to pre-judge.
Not to assume the worst of people, but to look at their best. I have learned that either I have a positive influence, or a negative influence.
"I have learned a lot. It has come with a heavy price. My remorse is profound. I don't know anything other thing than to get up and go forward, with the support of the family (the babysitter's), my wife and the judge."
"It's not the responsibility of other people to forgive me. They have every right to have that feeling. It's my responsibility to conduct myself in a way that will re-earn respect and trust. I will do that starting today. I am committed to helping this franchise win, and win at the highest level."
That means nothing short of home playoff games and championships beginning with salvaging this season.
"Today we go to work," he said. "LeLacheur made it very clear what's expected, what the mandate is, that there is a second chance. There will be no third chance.
"I guess there is a reason the eyes are in the front of the head, not the back, and that we go forward."
- with files from Graham Hicks