Why the Ticats promoted Eric Tillman to GM

Here are the two things you need to know about Friday’s Ticat news: Eric Tillman is the new general manager and Kent Austin is still in charge.

There is more to it, of course — quite a bit more, actually — but Tillman’s a polarizing figure in the CFL, courtesy of a long, sometimes checkered football resume and one fateful personal misstep for which social media dealt him yet another public flogging after the news was announced.

The simplest interpretation is that Tillman’s promotion from U.S. scout – along with the addition of assistant general manager titles for director of football operations Shawn Burke and director of Canadian scouting Drew Allemang – is that it’s recognition of an already established set of circumstances. Tillman has played a significant role in player personnel since being hired by Austin just a few months after he took over football operations 2013 – as have Burke and Allemang – and these new titles better represent the status quo.

But Austin signed his own four-year extension in January and it’s clear he’s got big plans for the front office, the totality of which would be difficult to execute without more outside help. The Ticats are, quietly, moving steadily onto the cutting edge.

“How we’re building football operations, from overall player development to analytics, to player procurement to high-performance and sports science – there’s a lot of different projects that I have in the long-term vision for building this team, ” Austin said. “As a result, all the roles have expanded and it was appropriate to provide the titles for the expanded roles.”

Austin’s relationship with Tillman goes back more than 30 years, and loyalty likely played a role in the invitation to join the Ticats in the first place: Tillman was coming off a GM stint with the Edmonton Eskimos in which the defining moment was the trading of quarterback Ricky Ray, and he was still in the swirl of a 2008 sexual assault charge to which he pleaded guilty and was given an absolute discharge.

Tillman has apologized numerous times but the incident will remain the defining moment of his career for some CFL fans. Austin, however, has stood by his friend.

And as much as Austin has come to rely on Tillman, Burke, Allemang and others, this should not be seen – in any way – as a lessening of Austin’s role.

It was Austin who suggested this front office remake and he knows he’ll be the one who is ultimately judged by the results. “All final decisions as they relate to football operations still rests with me, ” he said. “And I’m going to be the one accountable.”

Drew Edwards

Drew Edwards

Drew Edwards is into his eighth season covering the CFL and the Ticats for the Hamilton Spectator. He is the founder and editor of 3DownNation.
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Drew Edwards
About Drew Edwards (1169 Articles)
Drew Edwards is into his eighth season covering the CFL and the Ticats for the Hamilton Spectator. He is the founder and editor of 3DownNation.

25 Comments on Why the Ticats promoted Eric Tillman to GM

  1. Lindsay Wilcox // March 12, 2016 at 7:59 am //

    I still think Tillman will have more of a role in player negotiations, contracts, etc.

    Why now ? – realization also that these 3 guys would have been highly sought-after by other CFL teams at next go-around of rebuilding franchises, they WILL move on sooner or later, and now they have the chance to continue KA’s theme and will be training/grooming THEIR eventual successors.

  2. What a negative article harping on all the Tillman negatives Drew. In your other article in the Spectator you harp on
    Tillman being what you call a polarizing figure. In this one you infer Austin hired Tillman out of loyalty and not based
    on maybe his ability to help him run the team and find players. Then you harp on the negative social media this caused
    and not all the congratulations. Then you even mention the Ricky Ray trade without mentioning what Tillman inherited
    in Edmonton and conviently omit that Tillman even had a winning record as a GM there during his Eskimo tenure. Maybe
    you should also check out what the Ricky Ray trade actually yielded for the Eskimos before acting like a Darren Hansford.
    Then you go into the sexual assault of all things. Can you write an article on Tillman without even mentioning that for
    even one time?

    Don’t you think Tillman will be seeing what you write and remember? After all if and when Austin leaves he’ll likely take
    over and then you’ll be having to deal with him.

    • Chopper11 // March 12, 2016 at 12:46 pm //

      Back off Jacque, Drew says nothing offside here. It was a positive article, not a negative one.

      • Everyone has their own interpretation but I have to say I agree with you Chopper- it didn’t come across to me as a negative article at all.

  3. I had also wondered if maybe Tillman may have been sought after elsewhere and this was Austin’s way of giving him a raise to keep him around. Tillman is one of the few talented GMs that I don’t think ever had much of a career as a player. It is tough not to think of the sexual assault thing when you think of Tillman but given the accounts that I read at the time, it is no big deal.

  4. Ticat Mike // March 12, 2016 at 10:35 am //

    Tillman is an excellent football man and works well with Austin et al.

  5. Mr 62cats // March 12, 2016 at 10:51 am //

    Time for everyone to move on re Tillman’s past. His court case is over. He is now entitled to move on after his mistake….just like anyone else. Tillman also has another past…and a very successful one. Good on Kent Austin for taking his time with Tillman and now giving him a more influential role in the team.

    • Totally agree. If KA and Mr. Caretaker had a problem with him he would not be part of the organization. Move on…both for Tillman and the people who come out of the woodwork from time to time on this post if something even slightly controversial arises.

    • Reasonable Ticats fans will agree with you. It’s time to move on yet Drew Edwards has to drudge all this up again. If Bob Young and Scott Mitchell have a big problem with it Tillman wouldn’t have been hired in the first place. I’m in favour of this move. It’s good for the Ticats and good for the fans despite what the Ticats main writer in Drew Edwards thinks.

    • It is time for everyone to move on but with people like Daren Popowich who strangely enough google says only exists on 3downnation.com and has no evidence of him for anything else, that makes things hard. Maybe Daren ‘Rose Marie Phillip’ Popowich should stick to the Eskie stories and propping up Ed Hervey and keep to himself when it concerns Ticats business.

  6. “Hope it is different experience for Ti-Cat fans.”

    It already has been.

  7. ET has all my respect. He’s a very talented guy and is a huge asset to the TiCats and the CFL

  8. Well, the judge disagrees with you and there have been no repeat offences. I have made a lot of jokes about the guy in the past and now I am ready to move on. It was a very innocuous incident that never would have seen the light of a courtroom if he had not been a public figure in Regina. I am very familiar with the incident.

    • He pleaded guilty. And there is nothing innocuous about an incident involving someone in a supposed position of trust and a minor.

      I agree with JTEK – Drew needs to remove your posts, and our replies to keep it honest, so that this serious topic does not become a joke among the football crowd.

      Believe me, having an underage niece who was sexually assaulted, I know the terror and the grief something this “innocuous” can cause, and I see, twenty years later, the effects it had and still has on her life.

    • You can be familiar with the incident, he can be given a discharge, but he also pled GUILTY. And excusing it just makes you a part of a larger system that institutionalizes violence against women.

      Good GM or not, he deserves the “asterisk” beside his name because he earned it – through his actions.

      • Kent Austin emphasizes bringing in “character” guys. I don’t know of any member of the team that has had any trouble with the law since Austin has come in and he has known this man for 30 years. I have all the sympathy in the world for sexual assault victims and women and yes he pleaded guilty. However, get a grip on reality – we are not hiring Paul Bernardo to be the general manager. On a scale to 100 being the worst possible offence, Tilman’s offence would be about 0.00000001.

  9. Austin’s approach gives me hope that he’ll find a way to discover that diamond in the rough now that: 1. The NFL seems to be targeting QB prospects that previously would have been favoured by the CFL (guys like Russell Wilson) and 2. The CFL is a QB driven league.

  10. I thought it was just another article by Edwards that casts Tillman in the most negative light. Either Edwards is busy ignoring what Tillman brings to the Ticats or its this tripe.

  11. This is for Daren Popowich. You wrote “Thank god for Sean Fleming, Ed Hervey and many of the Eskimos alumni who forced the board and Rhodes to stop supporting Tillman.” I had heard that Ed Hervey who worked under Tillman at the time as a scout and the alumni were actively working to get Tillman ousted. I’d also heard it from several people who I think are credible. To the readers, imagine yourself in a workplace when you’re supposed to be in charge as Tillman was in Edmonton yet you have a key subordinate working against you who has media friends and the support of key alumni. Daren Popowich is right about that, how these people were pressuring the Eskimos president and the Eskimos board. All you the readers have to do is imagine yourself in the same work place environment. If it were you do you think you’d have success?

    • Mr 62cats // March 13, 2016 at 6:56 pm //

      Don J: This is not the Eskimos…it’s the Tiger-Cats. Kent Austin has known Tillman for many years. Tillman has worked for the Tiger-Cats as a scout. Bob Young knows him. Do you think these two smart cookies are idiots? Why would they make him a GM if they could not get along with him or because they think he is inept? ” I had heard…etc” counts for nothing and makes your post even more of an uninformed hatchet job.

  12. Why don’t you do some research into what actually happened with Tillman and the babysitter instead of reacting in such a fashion? No one is excusing what he did but the judge felt it didn’t even warrant a criminal conviction. He ended up pleading guilty to a summary charge which resulted in a $50 fine. Use google and do some research.

  13. The last thing we need as Ticats fans are toxic fans from the Eskimos fan base coming here and telling us what we should think from their skewed perspective. Their bias is showing. Bob Young and Scott Mitchell obviously support Austin naming Tillman as the general manager and its their vote that counts and not the bias of some skewed Eskimo fans that we see on here. Why they are compelled to come here and shadow Ticats events is weird in the first place. I trust Bob Young and Scott Mitchell and not them.

  14. blackandgold // March 13, 2016 at 11:35 am //

    in a salary cap world in which the CFL lives do not forget to include whoever the Esks were able to sign with the excess $$$ as part of that trade. What is Ray’s salary? 300, 350, $400,000?
    that pays for a lot of players!

    • Daren Popowich // March 13, 2016 at 1:14 pm //

      @ Blackandgold … ya it was Mike Reilly the following season by Ed Hervey who traded for him, because ET’s assessment of Steven Jyles and Kerry Joseph was way off.

  15. I googled the name Daren Popowich. The only returns that google gives me are your posts on here supporting Ed Hervey and for this website. Other than that google thinks you don’t exist. Are you sure your real name isn’t Rose Mary Phillip? If you don’t know that name google it and look it up. It’s the type of thing she does. This is a Ticats story. We don’t need an Eskie fan coming on here telling us how evil Eric Tillman is. Like others have said we choose to think Kent Austin and the owner and CEO know better than an Eskie fan with a hatchet to swing about Tillman.

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