Bombers' search for leadership heats up

KIRK PENTON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:06 PM ET

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers have charted a course for hiring their three new leaders over the next six to eight weeks.

Winnipeg Football Club chairman Ken Hildahl reported Monday that the board would like to get a vice-president of football operations and head coach in place as soon as possible. Hildahl wants the VP of football ops to have a say in the new coach.

Once those two are in place, the board would then worry about finding a new president-CEO to replace Lyle Bauer.

Hildahl said a selection committee, consisting of four or five board members, will be established soon.

“We want to bring stability to the football ops side,” Hildahl said. “So while we will be conducting the search for all three positions virtually simultaneously, obviously the focus will be on the football side.”

In an effort to keep the football ops running smoothly, the board has named Ross Hodgkinson the interim VP of football ops. Hodgkinson started out as the team’s athletic trainer nearly 25 years ago and has been the director of football operations since 2006.

“It’s vitally important that we send a clear signal that it’s business as usual for the Winnipeg Football Club with respect to any moves on the football operations side,” Hildahl said.

Hodgkinson has the authority to do everything a VP of football ops would normally do, which includes making trades. Hodgkinson would like to eventually remove the interim tag from his new title.

“It’s safe to say I’m interested in the job, yes,” he said Monday from Toronto. “We’ll just have to see what happens.”

Hodgkinson’s appointment is somewhat notable considering director of player personnel John Murphy, who has two years left on his contract, has a clause in his deal that states he has to report only to the president-CEO.

Hodgkinson said he and Murphy will continue to work “hand in hand” to ensure everyone on the football side of the building, including the assistant coaches, continues with his or her duties.

“All the continuity we can maintain in football ops would be a benefit to the organization,” Hodgkinson said.

As for the search, Hildahl said there is “significant interest” in all three Bomber positions. The board will meet again between Christmas and New Year’s to chart their progress and then start poring over applications in early January.

“We’re going into a very busy part of our off-season activities, whether it’s free agency that comes up very quick in February, the Canadian draft, potential trades and looking at our salary management system for next year,” Hildahl said.

Hildahl added that David Asper’s real estate company, Creswin Properties, will have a role in the hiring of all three positions — not just the president-CEO. Asper is poised to take ownership of the team in early 2011, as long as he can come up with financing for a new stadium.

“To the extent they will include me in the process, that’s very kind of them,” Asper said. “I’m not shy about giving advice if I’m asked.”

Meanwhile, fired head coach Mike Kelly was scheduled to appear in a Pennsylvania court Wednesday on simple assault and harassment charges, but his lawyer asked for and was granted a delay until the New Year, according to The Canadian Press.

“Mike maintains his innocence, and we will vigorously defend the charges,” Kelly’s lawyer, Tim Woodward, told CP. “I think you’re going to find when this is all said and done, he got a raw deal.”

LATE HIT: Due to the hectic last week, the Bombers have extended their season ticket renewal deadline until Friday, Jan. 8.

— With files from Paul Friesen


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