Bombers split on coach

Jim Barker is one of two candidates the Blue Bombers are considering as their new GM. (QMI Agency...

Jim Barker is one of two candidates the Blue Bombers are considering as their new GM. (QMI Agency file)

PAUL FRIESEN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:10 AM ET

Expect the Winnipeg Blue Bombers to have a new GM in place Friday.

His name? Depends on which camp is more convincing at a meeting of the Bomber board of directors Thursday night.

QMI Agency has learned that the four-person search committee is split down the middle, with one side ready to recommend Calgary executive Jim Barker, one pushing for Joe Mack, the old Winnipeg personnel man from the 1980s.

The search committee -- board members Paul Robson, Joe Poplawski, Bill Watchorn and Gene Dunn -- will make its recommendation(s) at what promises to be a contentious meeting of the full board tonight.

Whichever side is more convincing will win out, and the Bombers will then call a news conference for Friday, at which they'll introduce the new football boss.

One thing is certain: the process to fill the GM position, and by extension that of head coach, has been a fractious one, creating all kinds of rifts among the volunteer board members.

That news about the process continues to leak out only exacerbates the situation.

“These comments, which are attributed to the board, are very divisive to the board,” one source said. “I’d be really disappointed if they were. I mean, the board operates fundamentally on trust.”

Perhaps we should be happy the different agendas of the search committee members have produced just two finalists, and not four. Now that’d be a real mess.

One source says the committee has discussed with Barker a three-year contract with the title vice-president of football operations/GM, with a team option for a three-year extension.

The source also says Barker would hire Montreal offensive co-ordinator Scott Milanovich as his head coach within days. The team reportedly asked the Alouettes for permission to speak with Milanovich earlier this week.

Barker also impressed the board with his potential choice of a player personnel director, the source said, suggesting current bird dog John Murphy is on the way out.

The other finalist for the GM position, Mack, has been pushed hard by Robson, the former Bomber GM from the 1980s. Mack was Robson’s personnel guy from 1984 through '86.

Robson wields considerable power on the board, but there are those who feel Mack has been out of the CFL too long (since ’87) to be handed the reins.

His NFL experience is extensive, but through most of the last decade he's been without a regular job in the NFL.

It's not clear who Mack's choice of head coach would be. Regardless, he'd be a bit more of a gamble than Barker, who's been with the Calgary Stampeders the last five years, and in the CFL for 10, including a stint as head coach.

Barker has had to defer some decisions to head coach/GM John Hufnagel the last two years. His Winnipeg job description would give him full control of the football operation.

It would also remove him from the never-ending grind of the personnel wars, which, in an interview with QMI Agency last year, Barker admitted can get to a guy.

“In this job, you're never off,” he said. “I can understand how, over a long haul, it can get tedious. It's just a constant striving to get better. That can drain you.”

A source says members of the search committee are also high on Barker’s public relations skills, a must since the PR disaster that was Mike Kelly last season.

Barker is seen as someone who could reconnect the team with the community, through speaking engagements and connections to youth football. He's a longtime coach at many levels, with a physical education background.

You'd think this decision would be easy if all the board members simply had the team’s best interests at heart. But apparently it's gotten personal for some of them.

Right now, given the choices, I'd say Barker is the best thing for this team.

Sadly, that's no guarantee he’ll be hired.


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