Bauer was Bombers saviour but leaves with tarnished legacy

PAUL FRIESEN, WINNIPEG SUN

, Last Updated: 5:11 AM ET

From near-bankruptcy, to $5 million in the bank. Record corporate support. A plan for a new stadium.

Those are the good things on Lyle Bauer's 10-year record as president/CEO of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

No Grey Cups. The firing of four head coaches.

And Mike Kelly.

That's what'll tarnish Bauer's legacy.

"Generally speaking, he was obviously very good for that team," Brendan Taman, who worked under Bauer for nine of those 10 years, said yesterday. "The Doug (Berry) and Mike Kelly decision, obviously I didn't agree with it."

It was Bauer who signed Berry to a contract extension early in the 2008 season, only to fire him, against Taman's recommendation, and hire Kelly, an old friend, five months later.

But Taman, the former GM now working for the Roughriders, says his lasting impression of Bauer comes from the time when the former O-lineman led the team out of a financial crisis in 2000.

"We were teetering on financial disaster when he got there," Taman said. "And within a year or two that was almost put to bed, which is amazing. From the football side, we were two games in the championship, and didn't win."

Taman says Bauer was the perfect executive.

"He let the football guys worry about the football team, and made the business guys make the business side work," Taman said. "He assured me, 'You worry about football, I'll take care of the rest.' "

Doug Brown, the longest-serving player under Bauer, says it's too bad Bauer's time at the helm ended with the Kelly fiasco.

"Even with the potential damage that hiring could leave, when you look at the cost benefit of his tenure... none of us are infallible," Brown said. "The benefits outweigh the costs and the negatives."

paul.friesen@sunmedia.ca


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