CALGARY — Lyle Bauer’s wife, Heidi, got a Calgary Stampeders jersey earlier this week and put the “Bauer” name bar on the back.
Even though he’s been Calgary’s president and chief operating officer for nearly seven months, Lyle Bauer admitted it was a strange sight.
“I looked at it,” Bauer said, “and I went, ‘Wow, that just doesn’t seem right!’ ”
That’s what happens when you spend two decades as either a player or executive with another CFL organization, in this case the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. Bauer stepped down as Winnipeg’s president and CEO in December and joined the Stamps a month later.
It was a tumultuous conclusion to a tenure that, when looked at in its entirety, was a positive one. The fact Bauer resigned over the phone shows the ending won’t be viewed in the same light.
Asked if there is acrimony between him and the Winnipeg Football Club today, Bauer, as he often does, answered cryptically but got his point across.
“You find out a lot about certain people, and you just deal with it,” Bauer said Friday at McMahon Stadium, dressed in a black T-shirt and black jeans. “That’s it.”
Bauer’s hiring of Mike Kelly as head coach certainly damaged his legacy, not to mention the Bomber brand, as did his endorsement of the embattled sideline boss a few days after the stormy 2009 season ended.
It resulted in what was described as a game of chicken between Bauer and the board of directors.
If the board wanted to get rid of Kelly, it would have had to turf Bauer as well. That would mean pricey contract buyouts for both. So the board wanted restrictions put on Kelly if he were to continue as coach.
Bauer resigned over the phone on Dec. 17, and Kelly was fired a few hours later.
It wasn’t the prettiest departure, but Bauer prefers to look at all the good things that were accomplished during his reign.
And rightly so.
He was the man in charge when the club was saved from possible extinction due to financial woes.
Nonetheless, he figured it was time to go.
“I had to do some true self reflection and be honest with myself about probably where the organization was going and where — or not — I would fit in the future,” Bauer said, adding he stayed five years longer than he originally planned. “I had some heart-to-hearts with myself and found out a lot about people inside and outside of the organization.
“It was time. It was good. We did a lot of very good things which we’re very proud of.”
Bauer is doing many of the same duties in Calgary. He’s in charge of the business side of the operations, but he said he still confers with Stamps GM and head coach John Hufnagel, his former Bomber teammate, about what happens on the field.
“Huf controls football, but he and I engage a lot in those discussions,” Bauer said. “It’s not different than the way things were run in Winnipeg. You just have somebody who’s more seasoned as far as a head coach and GM.”
There is Bauer at his best, defending his hiring of Kelly without actually saying it.
He also did a little more Kelly supporting when saying he was happy the Bombers were off to a decent start this season.
“Maybe the difference is that they got two quarterbacks that you couldn’t get your hands on last year. You know, they weren’t available,” he said.
“Good on them.”
Bauer’s old team went up against his new one on Saturday night at McMahon Stadium for the first time since his departure.
Bombers defensive tackle Doug Brown said Bauer would have “his fingers crossed behind his back” when rooting for the Stamps.
Bauer didn’t exactly deny that, either.
Even though it’s apparent the relationship between Bauer and the Bombers is strained right now, it’s never going to break.
“I’m a Red and White executive with a little streak of Blue,” Bauer said. “That’s not going to change.”