Board can't give new CEO too much power

PAUL FRIESEN, QMI AGENCY

, Last Updated: 10:22 AM ET

"Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely."

It was the English historian, Lord Acton, who coined that phrase more than 100 years ago. But it rings as true as ever today.

What's it got to do with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, you ask?

Everything.

The team's volunteer board of directors has begun the search for three executives that will shape your football team for the immediate future.

We've got some new names to throw into the mix today.

But first, it's time to remind the 11-person board to learn from its immediate past. And that is, giving too much autonomy to one man isn't a good idea.

Ten years ago, the board -- with some of the same members, not all -- hired Lyle Bauer as president and CEO, giving the former O-lineman full control over both the football and business sides of the operation.

It was a bold move and, for a time, a successful one, as Bauer, who could be a convincing, even intimidating negotiator, led the team out of near-bankruptcy, albeit with plenty of help from the taxpayer.

At the same time, the Bombers became a force to be reckoned with on the field, winning 14, 12 and 11 regular-season games in consecutive years, from 2001-'03.

I don't know if that feat so dazzled board members they could no longer find any fault with Bauer, but it seems his performance the last few years slipped considerably -- with no fallout.

I know, he waged a courageous battle with cancer in 2004-05, and we were all behind him on that one. But that shouldn't get him off the hook -- and I doubt he'd want it to -- for his lousy decision-making the last two years.

No need to rehash it all in this space. Suffice to say the handling of head coaches Doug Berry and Mike Kelly, not to mention the promotion, then demotion, of GM Brendan Taman, left a lot to be desired.

Replacement

Well, here's hoping the board has learned something from this mess, as it goes looking for Bauer's replacement.

Early indications are it has, as the plan is to have the new CEO in charge of the business operation, but not the football. A vice-president of football operations, another fancy title for a GM, would be in charge of the on-field product.

This is where we're hearing some interesting names, beginning with that of Jim Barker, Calgary's vp of football operations.

Barker could be interested because in Calgary John Hufnagel, head coach and GM, has the final say on football decisions.

Don't be surprised if Paul Robson, a current Bomber board member, is in the mix, too.

Robson has tons of experience at this level, starting when he was the Bomber GM in the 1980s. He's also a former CFL chairman, and ran the Toronto Argonauts for the league when it took over the team in 2003.

Someone like Adam Rita, GM of the Argos, could be interested, too, considering how shaky things are in TO.

No matter who gets the job, or that of CEO, both positions need checks and balances from the board, and not just a rubber-stamp process for every major decision.

Sure, board members are volunteers who didn't necessarily sign up for this. By now the team was supposed to be on the verge of becoming David Asper's private play thing.

But since the Asper Plan is delayed, this board has to be our watch dog. If a sportswriter could see that the hiring of Kelly was flimsy from the start, so could everyone around that boardroom table.

Why was Bauer allowed to hire an old friend when the old friend didn't have the credentials to be a CFL head coach?

It's time to throw out the rubber stamps, and start demanding full accountability.

Absolute power is absolutely out of the question.

Contact Paul at paul.friesen@sunmedia.ca or 632-2788.


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