Bombers pay off Kelly

Why would this man be smiling? Maybe because Mike Kelly has received a buyout from the Bombers...

Why would this man be smiling? Maybe because Mike Kelly has received a buyout from the Bombers after all. (QMI Agency file)

PAUL FRIESEN, QMI AGENCY

, Last Updated: 10:36 AM ET

What's that they always say: if it seems too good to be true, it probably is?

It turns out that was the case with the firing of Blue Bomber head coach Mike Kelly last month, a bloodletting that wasn't quite as neat and tidy as it appeared.

You may recall how the Professor was canned the day he was arrested in a domestic assault charge down in Bridgeport, Pa.

The arrest provided a perfect opportunity for the Bomber board of directors, free to do as it pleased with the resignation of CEO and Kelly protector Lyle Bauer earlier that same day, to relieve the Professor of his duties, with cause.

And without a buyout.

At least, that was the plan.

But a CFL source close to Kelly yesterday told the Sun the coach has collected slightly less than a year's salary for his troubles. In exchange, he won't challenge the firing in court.

Kelly still had two years left on a contract that was to pay him some $200,000 annually.

So the move cost the Bombers an estimated $160,000.

Board chairman Ken Hildahl refused to confirm the club paid anything to Kelly, saying only the matter has been resolved "to the satisfaction of both parties."

But if that doesn't scream "buyout" then what does?

"That's one that we're not going to speak beyond," Hildahl said, holding his ground. "Read into it whatever. All I can say is both parties are mutually satisfied."

Whatever.

So what do we make of this turn of events?

Well, for 160 grand you could buy one pretty darn good player on the free agent market, come the middle of February.

Of course, the money paid to coaches doesn't count towards the CFL salary cap, so it shouldn't affect the on-field product in 2010. Simply call it the cost of doing business.

And well worth it, it says here, in order for board members to put this entire fiasco behind them for good.

Because without a payoff, Kelly surely could have claimed he was wrongfully dismissed.

You can't simply break a coach's contract because he didn't make the playoffs. The Bombers, if they landed in court, would have had to prove they had just cause in firing the man.

That would have involved dredging up all the different ways Kelly smeared the franchise's reputation. Talk about needlessly tying up the courts.

Now, rehashing the whole mess, including the Professor's confrontations with fans, players and media, the last of which finally drew a fine from CFL commissioner Mark Cohon, might have made for scintillating courtroom drama.

But nobody really wanted to relive 2009.

Not even me.

This way, the Bombers put the Kelly era behind them, for good. For a relatively modest price.

No doubt the Professor could use the cash. I doubt he'll be landing a comparable job in football anytime soon.

And the Bombers enter 2010 with a clean slate.

The team's not even paying the previously fired Doug Berry anymore, the way it did in 2009, thanks to Bauer's firing of him in the middle of his contract.

The final season of Berry's deal, 2010, was an option year. An option we presume the club won't be picking up.

So there's no former head coach to pay, no GM collecting, no ex-CEO's salary on the books -- oh, the freedom.

Now if only the board would hire the perfect people for those jobs.

People that could forge long, successful careers in blue and gold, and erase this latest ugly chapter from everybody's memory.

Win a few Grey Cups, even.

Yeah, I know.

It seems too good to be possible.

paul.friesen@sunmedia.ca


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