November 3, 2012

Rhodes: ‘It’s in the best interests of the club’


EDMONTON — The Edmonton Eskimos didn’t single out any one reason for firing general manager Eric Tillman.

The team announced on Saturday it had ended Tillman’s contract effective immediately and Eskimos president and CEO Len Rhodes said in a statement that he “did not see Eric as a part of this team moving forward.”

“It’s what I believe is in the best interests of the club, for the long term of the club,” said Rhodes. “I’m very proud of what Eric’s done. Everything he’s done has been what he thought was in the best interests of the club. It’s a business decision.

“We’ve decided to go with someone else.”

The Eskimos will face the Toronto Argonauts in the East Division semifinal Nov. 11 at Rogers Centre after earning a cross-over berth.

Rhodes said he informed the team’s board on Oct. 25 that he wanted to replace Tillman and he said he had the board’s full support. He said Tillman was informed after returning to Edmonton on Friday and that he took the news “like a gentleman.”

Tillman had come under a lot of fire after the the off-season trade that saw Ricky Ray shipped to Toronto after a decade in Green and Gold.  Rhodes, however, dismissed the idea that Tillman’s dismissal had anything to do with the Ray trade.
“At the time, I approved of the trade. Why would I relieve someone when I approved of the trade to begin with?” Rhodes asked.

Rhodes also said that while the club would have preferred Tillman had moved (his family) to Edmonton, he wouldn’t single it out as a factor in the decision to replace him.

He said rather than being a distraction heading into the playoffs, he said he hoped it would focus the team.

“Our head coach and his coaching staff and the players have to be focused on what’s going on going into Toronto,” said Rhodes. “We started the season with the objective of getting into the playoffs. We’re in the playoffs. Now there’s a reset button.

“Everyone’s on the same page. We’re going to give it our best shot.”

Tillman is a veteran CFL executive, having served as GM previously with B.C. (’93-’94), Toronto (1997, ’99), Ottawa (2002-’04) and Saskatchewan (2006-’10). His teams have made four Grey Cup appearances, winning three times (1994, ’97 and ’07).

Tillman began his CFL career in 1982 as the player-personnel director of the Montreal Concordes before serving as the executive director of the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., from 1984 to 1993.

Rhodes said the team hopes to hire a replacement by the start of next year.