Eric Tillman

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Eric Tillman
Date of birth: (1957-07-24) July 24, 1957 (age 57)
Place of birth: Jackson, Mississippi
Career information
Position(s): GM/VP (Football Operations)
College: Mississippi
Organizations
As administrator:
1981
19821983
1984–1992
19931994
1995–1996
1997
1999
20012004
20062009
20102012
2013
Houston Oilers (PR)
Montreal Concordes (PP)
Senior Bowl (ED)
BC Lions (GM)
WLAF (ED)
Toronto Argonauts (GM)
Toronto Argonauts (GM)
Ottawa Renegades (GM)
Saskatchewan Roughriders (GM)
Edmonton Eskimos (GM)
Hamilton Tiger-Cats (Consultant)
Career highlights and awards

Eric Tillman (born July 24, 1957)[1][2] is an American-born Canadian football executive who currently serves as a consultant for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the Canadian Football League. He was previously the general manager of the BC Lions (1993–94), Toronto Argonauts (1997, 1999), Ottawa Renegades (2002–04),[2] Saskatchewan Roughriders (2006–2010),[3][4] and Edmonton Eskimos (2010–2012). As a general manager, Tillman has won the Grey Cup three times (1994, 1997, and 2007).[2][3] In addition to his career as an executive, Tillman has also worked as a CFL analyst for TSN, the CBC, and Rogers Sportsnet.[3]

Early career[edit]

Tillman began his career as a football executive in 1981 as a member of the Houston Oilers' public relations department. The following year he received his first job in the CFL when he became the player personnel director of the Montreal Concordes.[5] From 1984 to 1993, Tillman served as Executive Director of the Senior Bowl, a game sponsored by National Football League designed to showcase top players graduating from United States colleges.[5][6]

BC Lions[edit]

From 1993 to 1995, Tillman was the General Manager of the BC Lions. Tillman took over a team that went 3–15 in 1992. Under Tillman, the Lions posted a 31–22–1 record and upset the Baltimore Stallions in the 82nd Grey Cup.[7] The Lions success came in spite of regular fighting between head coach Dave Ritchie and owner Bill Comrie and a lack of team harmony.[5]

In 1995, Norton Herrick, an Orlando, Florida real estate developer, announced plans to move the CFL's Las Vegas Posse to Tillman's hometown of Jackson, Mississippi. Tillman was to be the club's general manager, however plans fell through and the relocation did not take place and Tillman remained with BC.[8]

Toronto Argonauts[edit]

In November 1995, the World League of American Football named Tillman its Director of Football Operations.[9] Tillman, however preferred overseeing a single team so in 1997 he returned to the CFL as general manager of the Toronto Argonauts. That year, the Argonauts won the Grey Cup. However, Tillman and head coach Don Matthews had a tumultuous relationship. On March 1, 1998, Tillman officially departed the Argonauts. He then joined TSN as a football analyst.[10] In 1999, Matthews left the Argonauts to become head coach of the Edmonton Eskimos and, after Wally Buono turned down an offer to become head coach and general manager, the Argos asked Tillman to return as GM.[7] When the team was purchased by New York businessman Sherwood Schwarz after the 1999 season, Tillman was fired and replaced by Schwarz's cousin, J. I. Albrecht.[11] After his dismissal, Tillman returned to TSN.[12]

Ottawa Renegades[edit]

On October 23, 2001, Tillman was named the first General Manager of the expansion Ottawa Renegades. Ottawa won four games their inaugural season and seven games the following year. In 2004, the Renegades gave head coach Joe Paopao the title of director of football operations. Although Tillman was still technically general manager, Paopao was effectively general manager.[13]

After leaving Ottawa, Tillman served as an analyst for the CBC and Rogers Sportsnet.[14]

Saskatchewan Roughriders[edit]

Part way through the 2006 CFL season, Tillman was hired as the Roughriders general manager after they fired long time GM Roy Shivers.[2] He took over a team that had a tarnished reputation in the community after several players had run-ins with the law, including former linebacker Trevis Smith, who had been charged with two counts of aggravated sexual assault after he knowingly exposed two women to HIV without telling them.[15] Tillman promised to clean up the team's image and the Roughriders adopted a code of conduct which required players to obey the law, act with honesty and integrity, respect others, and take responsibility for their actions.[16]

During Tillman's three years with the team they hosted three consecutive home playoff games and played in two Grey Cups.[17] In 2007, the Roughriders won their third ever Grey Cup. Among the key signings made by Tillman were head coach Kent Austin, defensive end Stevie Baggs, receivers Weston Dressler and Rob Bagg, defensive back Omarr Morgan, and running back Corey Holmes.[18] He also acquired many key players who would be part of the Roughriders 2013 championship season, including Darian Durant, Chris Getzlaf, and John Chick.[19] In July 2008, Tillman was given a contract extension through 2010.[20]

Summary assault charges, absolute discharge and resignation[edit]

On August 6, 2008, Tillman was sent home from a team board meeting because he was acting strangely. After he arrived home, Tillman put his hands on the hips of his children's sixteen-year-old babysitter and pulled her rear end into his body in a sexual nature. Tillman's attorney would state that Tillman was not thinking clearly because he had taken a double dose of sleep aids and pain medication for a sore back and that he did not remember what happened.[16][21] On January 27, 2009, Tillman was charged with summary sexual assault.[22] He was placed on paid administrative leave by the Roughriders on February 2, 2009.[21]

Tillman pleaded guilty to the charge on January 4, 2010, the day his trial on this summary offence was to begin.[15] He was granted an absolute discharge the following day and subsequently received no criminal record but was fined $50.00.[23][24] Judge Murray Hinds stated that Tillman was "genuinely remorseful [and] in this case there's no suggestion that Mr. Tillman is not generally of good character. He has no prior criminal record. His behaviour towards [the teenage girl] on Aug. 6 appears to be an aberration fuelled by his consumption of two non-prescription drugs."[25] On January 8, 2010, he resigned from his position as the Roughriders' general manager.[16]

Edmonton Eskimos[edit]

On September 14, 2010, Tillman was hired as General Manager of the Edmonton Eskimos. He took over an Eskimos team that had a league-worst 2-8 record. Tillman stated that his primary goal would be improving the team's Canadian players. According to Eskimos president Rick LeLacheur, the team received a "substantial" number of phone calls from fans opposed to hiring Tillman, however, the Eskimos organization had deemed him worthy of a second chance.[26] After Tillman's hiring, the Eskimos won five out of its eight remaining games and finished out of the playoffs by only two points.[6]

In Tillman's first full season with the team, the Eskimos finished with an 11–7 record, which tied them with the Calgary Stampeders and BC Lions for first place in the West. Edmonton defeated Calgary 33–19 in the West Semifinal, but lost to BC 40–23 in the West Final.[6]

On Dececmber 12, 2011, Tillman traded quarterback Ricky Ray to the Toronto Argonauts for quarterback Steven Jyles, kicker Grant Shaw, and a first-round pick. The move would be criticized as Jyles struggled at quarterback for the Eskimos while Ray led the Argonuats to victory in the 100th Grey Cup.[27]

In 2012, the Eskimos finished fourth in West, with a 7–11 record. The team struggled offensively throughout the season and started three quarterbacks Jyles, Kerry Joseph, and Matt Nichols. Edmonton lost its final three games, but was able to make the playoffs due to the crossover rule. On November 3, 2012, eight days before the Eskimos playoff game against the Toronto Argonauts, Eskimos president Len Rhodes announced that Tillman had been fired.[6] Rhodes stated that there "no specific reason" as to why Tillman was fired, but he did point to Tillman's lack of presence in the community as an issue.[28]

Hamilton Tiger-Cats[edit]

Two months after his dismissal, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats hired Tillman as a consultant.[29] His position is described by head coach/general manager Kent Austin as being a "sounding board" for Austin.[19]

CFL GM record[edit]

Team Year Regular Season Post Season
Won Lost Ties Win % Finish Won Lost Result
BC 1993 10 8 0 .556 2nd in West Division 0 1 Lost in West Semi-Final
BC 1994 11 6 1 .611 3rd in West Division 3 0 Won 82nd Grey Cup
BC 1995 10 8 0 .556 3rd in West Division 0 1 Lost in West Semi-Final
TOR 1997 15 3 0 .833 1st in East Division 2 0 Won 85th Grey Cup
TOR 1999 9 9 0 .500 4th in West Division 0 1 Lost in East Semi-Final
OTT 2002 4 14 0 .222 4th in East Division - - Missed Playoffs
OTT 2003 7 11 0 .389 4th in East Division - - Missed Playoffs
SSK 2006 5 4 0 .556 3rd in West Division 1 1 Lost in West Final
SSK 2007 12 6 0 .667 2nd in West Division 3 0 Won 95th Grey Cup
SSK 2008 12 6 0 .667 2nd in West Division 0 1 Lost in West Semi-Final
SSK 2009 10 7 1 .556 1st in West Division 1 1 Lost in 97th Grey Cup
EDM 2010 5 3 0 .625 4th in West Division - - Missed Playoffs
EDM 2011 11 7 0 .611 2nd in West Division 1 1 Lost in West Final
EDM 2012 7 11 0 .389 3rd in East Division - - Fired During Playoffs
Total 111 95 2 .540 2 Division
Championships
11 5 3 Grey Cups

References[edit]

  1. ^ "'This has become home for us': Tillman". The Leader-Post. July 16, 2008. Retrieved January 13, 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c d "Tillman is fan friendly". www.canada.com. Retrieved 2010-06-28. 
  3. ^ a b c "Tillman's future in CFL in doubt". CBC. January 5, 2010. Retrieved 2010-06-28. 
  4. ^ Murray McCormick (January 5, 2010). "Tillman stands behind Saskatchewan Roughriders' code of conduct". Montreal Gazette. Retrieved 2010-06-28. 
  5. ^ a b c Davis, Darrell (November 24, 2007). "Riders GM Eric Tillman". Leader-Post. Retrieved January 13, 2014. 
  6. ^ a b c d "Edmonton Eskimos fire GM Eric Tillman". The Toronto Star. November 3, 2012. 
  7. ^ a b "Tillman Back With Argos". The Daily Gleaner. February 4, 1999. 
  8. ^ Murray, Ken (April 15, 1995). "Posse dispersal draft is set". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved January 12, 2014. 
  9. ^ "Transactions". The New York Times. November 14, 1995. Retrieved January 12, 2014. 
  10. ^ "Tillman to tackle tasks with TSN". The Province. March 12, 1998. 
  11. ^ York, Marty (May 9, 2000). "Former Argo GM drives hard bargain to collect his pay". The Globe and Mail. 
  12. ^ "TSN adds body, stripe to its CFL broadcasts". The Toronto Star. July 4, 2000. 
  13. ^ "A timeline of the various troubles for Ottawa's CFL teams since '69". The Ottawa Citizen. March 26, 2008. Retrieved January 13, 2014. 
  14. ^ "Tillman to join Sportsnet". Calgary Herald. April 30, 2005. 
  15. ^ a b "CFL GM pleads guilty to sexual assault". The Toronto Star. January 4, 2010. Retrieved January 13, 2014. 
  16. ^ a b c "Eric Tillman resigns as Roughriders GM". CTV News. Bell Media. Retrieved January 13, 2014. 
  17. ^ McCormick, Murray (January 8, 2010). "Tillman's tenure produced results". The Star Phoenix. Retrieved January 13, 2014. 
  18. ^ Ralph, Dan (September 13, 2010). "Struggling Eskimos looking to Eric Tillman to help rebuild". The Toronto Star. Retrieved January 13, 2014. 
  19. ^ a b Simmons, Steve (November 22, 2013). "Grey Cup 2013: Former Roughriders GM Eric Tillman returns to old stamping grounds". Toronto Sun. Retrieved January 13, 2014. 
  20. ^ The Canadian Press (January 9, 2010). "Roughriders GM Eric Tillman resigns after pleading guilty to sexual assault". The Truro Daily News. Retrieved January 13, 2014. 
  21. ^ a b Jana G. Pruden; Murray McCormick (January 5, 2010). "Tearful Roughriders GM Eric Tillman gets absolute discharge for sex assault". Regina Leader-Post. Retrieved January 13, 2014. 
  22. ^ CBC: Roughriders' GM charged with sexual assault 3 February 2009
  23. ^ "Tillman Named New General Manager of Floundering Eskimos". TSN.ca. Retrieved 2010-09-15. 
  24. ^ Graham, Jennifer (January 5, 2010). "CFL GM granted absolute discharge in sex assault case". The Toronto Star. Retrieved January 13, 2014. 
  25. ^ "Tillman gets absolute discharge in sex assault case". CTV.ca. Bell Media. Retrieved January 13, 2014. 
  26. ^ "Tillman named new general manager of floundering Eskimos". TSN.ca. Bell Media. Retrieved January 13, 2014. 
  27. ^ Moddejonge, Gerry (July 11, 2013). "Losing Ricky Ray was a blow to the Edmonton Eskimos offence, but an even bigger loss may have been defensive co-ordinator Rich Stubler". Toronto Sun. Retrieved January 13, 2014. 
  28. ^ O'Leary, Chris (November 3, 2012). "Edmonton Eskimos vague on reasons for firing GM Tillman". Edmonton Journal. Retrieved January 13, 2014. 
  29. ^ The Canadian Press. "Eric Tillman hired as consultant by Tiger-Cats". CBC Sports. CBC. Retrieved January 13, 2014.