Bombers expect fight from Kelly

KIRK PENTON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:22 PM ET

WINNIPEG -- Winnipeg Football Club chairman Ken Hildahl would not be surprised if fired Bomber head coach Mike Kelly challenges his dismissal.

“You would expect that,” Hildahl said. “It’s just the way it seems to go.”

Kelly was fired before the end of his contract, which was believed to have two years remaining on it, and that's why the WFC believes he will be looking for a severance package. Had Kelly resigned, the club wouldn’t have had to worry about the possibility of buying him out.

Kelly didn’t return messages left by the Sun yesterday, but the 51-year-old told Global TV Winnipeg that he was “completely and totally numb” after he was arrested and charged with assault, and then fired by the Bombers on Thursday.

“Just say that I’m sorry (to the fans),” he told Global. “I’m embarrassed, and they deserve better.”

Hildahl had not heard from Kelly or his representatives yesterday, but he said the Bombers had just cause in firing their head coach.

“That would be fair to say, yes,” Hildahl said. “I can’t go into any more detail because of possible legal challenges.”

Kelly clashed with fans and media while guiding the Blue and Gold to a 7-11 campaign in 2009, his first with the club. While it appeared Kelly was let go because of his arrest after a domestic dispute at his home in Bridgeport, Pa., Hildahl said it was based on his whole season at the helm.

Firing Kelly based simply on the charge could backfire if Kelly is exonerated, as he could then challenge the dismissal.

“The review was based on a host of issues, not just on-field performance,” Hildahl said. “To go beyond that would be really tough right now. It’s more than just on-field.”

The Bomber board of directors will meet today to establish the process of hiring a new president/CEO, head coach and a third position that will deal with football operations.

“We’ve been sort of developing the position of vice president, football operations,” Hildahl said. “That would be something we’d want to look at. A similar role to what Brendan (Taman) played when he was here, and maybe on an expanded basis.

“We haven’t finalized the structure. We’re looking at different options. It may change as we go through our planning process.”

The status of John Murphy, Winnipeg’s director of player personnel, is unknown, but he remains under contract.

The Saskatchewan Roughriders, one of two other community-owned teams in the CFL, use a similar system. Jim Hopson is the president and CEO, Eric Tillman is the GM, Joe Womack is the director of player personnel, and Ken Miller is the head coach.

Kelly and Bauer basically served as co-GMs this season, with Murphy and director of football operations Ross Hodgkinson taking care of the scouting.

Hildahl added that the franchise's hiring order will also be determined at today’s meeting and that there are no front-runners for the jobs because the board hasn’t discussed candidates.

“The people that are qualified to coach in professional football, obviously it’s a predetermined group. So that one I don’t see as any issue,” Hildahl said. “The CEO one, we’ll start having those discussions (today).”

All in all, Hildahl said the feedback he got from fans yesterday was favourable.

“The sense I get is it’s very positive,” he said. “People aren’t unhappy with the direction we took yesterday.”

— With files from Paul Friesen

kirk.penton@sunmedia.ca


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