Bombers coach arrested, fired

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers fired Mike Kelly Thursday, ending a turbulent year for the CFL team. (QMI...

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers fired Mike Kelly Thursday, ending a turbulent year for the CFL team. (QMI Agency file photo)

JASON HALSTEAD, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:31 PM ET

WINNIPEG -- Mike Kelly’s day started with a run-in with the law and ended with him looking for a new job.

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers head coach was arrested and charged with assault following a domestic incident at his Pennsylvania home Thursday morning. By evening, the football club’s board members had made the decision to cut him loose, basing their decision on his professional performance and not the arrest, they said.

Bridgeport Police Department Sgt. John Cane said Kelly was arrested and charged with assault and harassment after police were called to the Bomber coach’s home by his ex-girlfriend Andrea Peterson just after 11 a.m. Thursday.

Cane said Peterson met police outside the front door of Kelly’s Bridgeport, Penn., home.

“She told us they had an argument and (Kelly) grabbed her and she showed the officers that she had some redness around her neck, she had a small bruise or cut on her lip and on her knuckle,” Cane said. “His face had some minor swelling to it. He accused her of hitting him.”

In their report, Bridgeport police said Peterson told them she was in the process of moving some of her possessions out of Kelly’s home when he confronted her and an argument ensued. In the report, Kelly denies hitting his ex-girlfriend and claims she started punching him in the face and that he grabbed her in self-defence.

Under Pennsylvania domestic violence laws, police are required to make an arrest if there is evidence of assault of any type, no matter how minor.

Kelly was held for about 90 minutes at the police station where he was charged with simple assault, a Level 2 misdemeanour, and harassment before being released on his own recognizance. He is scheduled to appear in court in Bridgeport next Wednesday. Peterson was not charged.

Cane said the former couple continued bickering after police arrived.

“They were still arguing a little bit, accusing one another of different things, of starting the fight — that kind of stuff,” Cane said.

The borough of Bridgeport is located about 30 kilometres northwest of Philadelphia.

Sgt. Cane said Kelly was upset but co-operative with police and openly expressed his fears about the arrest’s impact on his job in Winnipeg.

“He did tell us at one point that he was the coach of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers,” Cane said. “He was concerned about the publicity, it seemed like to me, and what it would cost him. He wasn’t trying to elicit any favours or anything. He was worried about the fallout from all this. He said, ‘I don’t know what this will do when it gets out. I’m the head coach in Winnipeg.’”

Cane said he had heard of the Bombers and knew Kelly had been involved previously in the NFL — he spent two seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles starting in 2001 where he worked as an offensive assistant, quality control coach and advance scout.

In his first season with the Blue and Gold this year, Kelly had repeated run-ins with members of the media and even clashed with fans as he led a struggling team to just a 7-11 record.

Just two days ago, it appeared the Bombers’ board was poised to keep the embattled head coach on for a second season. But then Bomber president and CEO Lyle Bauer — who hired Kelly and stood behind the coach — announced his resignation yesterday morning.

The Bombers board members convened an emergency meeting Thursday evening once news of Kelly’s arrest became known.

“Mike Kelly has been relieved of his duties as head coach,” said Winnipeg Football Club chairman Ken Hildahl after the board meeting.

Hildahl said the decision was based solely upon Kelly’s on-field performance and had nothing to do with his legal problems.

“Our review was based strictly on the past year’s performance,” Hildahl said.

Hildahl said Kelly was asked to step down, but declined.

“It would have been our preference that the head coach resign, but that didn’t materialize,” Hildahl said. “We came to the conclusion that it would be in the best interests of the club to move forward in a different direction.”

jason.halstead@sunmedia.ca


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