Not a panic decision, says president

TERRY JONES, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:13 AM ET

Doug Goss knew how tough this was going to be to present to the community when he first presented it to his wife.

"The first thing she said was, 'You've got to be kidding,' " said the chairman of the Edmonton Eskimos' board of directors of the idea of hiring Eric Tillman as general manager -- the idea which became a reality when the Eskimos announced his hiring Tuesday.

Tillman had resigned as GM of the community-owned Saskatchewan Roughriders after being given an absolute discharge without criminal record, after pleading guilty to sexually assaulting his children's teenage babysitter.

Goss told his wife what he now tells Edmonton.

"If we thought there was one in a million chance of something like what happened in Regina ever happening again involving Eric Tillman, we wouldn't have made this decision," he said.

Goss was referring to the board of Harold Roosen, Bruce Bentley, William Scott, Allan Sawin, Terry O'Flynn, John Moquin, Larry Pollock and the first female board member in Eskimos' history, Dianne Brickner.

"This board is about this community. We are nine people who care deeply about this city. For most of us, this is one of the most challenging decisions we've ever been involved with.

"We are all completely convinced this man will not ever again do anything to damage his reputation or that of this organization," added Goss.

"The board was fully engaged, totally supportive and totally unanimous," said president and CEO Rick LeLacheur.

There was no spin doctoring or helmets-on-backwards approach in the way the Eskimos organization presented the decision.

It was a straight-ahead, up-front, deal-with-it approach.

There was certainly no suggestion that the Eskimos were ignorant of the initial reaction to the hiring.

"We know," said LeLacheur. "I have had e-mails from people who have said they will not come to another game. We've had a number of calls and we know the response is 60-65% against ... 35-40% in favour."

That made it a gutsy, gutsy call by both LeLacheur in recommending the hire and the board of directors in approving it.

"Do I believe this community believes in giving people a second chance? Yes I do and I've seen it.

"Do I believe in giving people a second chance? Yes, I do. Do I believe Eric Tillman deserves a second chance? Yes I do. Will people in the community give him a second chance? I am asking them to," said LeLacheur.

"The football decision was very easy. However, as we all know, this was not an easy decision. In terms of the community response it was a very tough and difficult call.

"Eric has had outstanding success in the CFL. In his 10 years as general manager in Saskatchewan, B.C., Toronto and Ottawa he has had four appearances in the Grey Cup, with three wins and three rookie of the years.

"I believe he can win and build a winner here."

LeLacheur said the Eskimos gave Tillman a three-year contract but suggested it wasn't the standard GM contract, if there is such a thing.

"There are clauses of termination and both sides understand that."

The Eskimos' CEO said he and the board didn't make a snap panic decision here since firing Danny Maciocia July 31.

"We did a tremendous amount of due diligence. We talked to a tremendous amount of people, particularly in Regina, including people who know the family involved," he said of the circumstances involved with Tillman and the teenage babysitter.

"Now it's up to Eric to show this community what he's all about and what his character is all about."


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