Double whammy for Big Blue

JIM BENDER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:05 PM ET

WINNIPEG -- The Big Blue were hit with a double whammy Thursday.

First, Lyle Bauer resigned as president/CEO of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers at a press conference in the morning. Then, the Bombers fired the man Bauer had hired as head coach, Mike Kelly, at a second, hastily-called evening press conference.

"It's a tough decision," said Bomber board chairman Ken Hildahl. "But I've been saying repeatedly to you folks for the last six weeks that we were reviewing the on-field performance, the associated performance of the head coach over the last 12 months and we came to the conclusion (last night), based on that assessment, that it's time to move on and find a new coach."

The announcement came after an emergency board meeting when reports emerged that Kelly was arrested for domestic assault at his home near Philadelphia Thursday. It was a unanimous decision, Hildahl said. However, he denied that the decision was based on Kelly's legal problem.

"We have to respect the fact that an incident did take place," he said. "But in the eyes of the law, these are allegations and allegations only. Our review was based strictly on last year's performance."

Under Kelly, the Bombers finished out of the CFL playoffs with a 7-11 record and his rookie campaign was fraught with clashes with both fans and the media.

"There's no question there's been some damage done to the football club brand this year," admitted Hildahl, who added that the club will seek replacements with "solid moral backgrounds."

The Bombers gave Kelly a chance to resign but he declined.

Kelly did not return either e-mail or text messages.

The board will meet tomorrow morning to discuss plans to find replacements for both Bauer and Kelly. No decision has been made on the futures of the assistant coaches yet.

Meanwhile, Bauer told the board he planned to resign on Tuesday.

"Weve accepted Lyles resignation with a lot of reluctance," Hildahl said.

Jim Bell, Bomber vice-president of finance and administration, has become acting president.

Although Bauer claimed "it is time to move on after a decade," he could join the Calgary Stampeders as their new president.

"I guess Im a free agent," Bauer responded by telephone from St. George, Utah. "I guess, right now, wed be in a position to entertain those opportunities. Well see where the cards fall in the next while."

Bauer also admitted that the controversies swirling around Kelly influenced his decision.

"There are challenges and, I guess, probably more challenges in that regard than anyone anticipated," he said. "There are good things and then, not so good things. Its a combination of everything. I wouldnt say that situation was the (last) straw."

But Bauer indicated that he was not forced out.

"This is my decision," he asserted. "Its not one made by or influenced by the board of directors. And my decision does not have any financial impact on the Winnipeg Football Club This is a personal decision Ive made in the interests of my family."

The Bombers will start the search for a new president/CEO with the help of Creswin's David Asper, who is expected to take over the club.

Former Bomber GM Brendan Taman was not surprised by the resignation.

"Hes had a great run," Taman, now director of football administration for the Saskatchewan Roughriders. "A really good guy to work with."

Taman, by the way, would be willing to return to the Bombers as a personnel director if the opportunity presented itself.

"Ive always had a special place in my heart for that place," he said.

jim.bender@sunmedia.ca

With files from Paul Friesen


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