CFL places moratorium on coaching moves after Thorpe bolts for Esks

Jeffrey L. Orridge

The Canadian Football League placed a moratorium on the movement of coaches between teams on Wednesday after reports that Montreal Alouettes defensive co-ordinator Noel Thorpe agreed to join the Edmonton Eskimos.

First-year commissioner Jeffrey Orridge sent a memo to CFL team presidents and general managers saying any movement of a coach already under contract will need the league’s approval.

“Effective immediately, there will be a moratorium on any coaches’ movement from one club to another club, unless such transaction is expressly approved in writing by the commissioner or his delegate, prior to the movement taking place. This only applies to coaches who are currently under contract with a CFL club,” the memo read.

The move came with the league in apparent chaos after a flurry of movement, accusations of tampering and demands for compensation as coaches bolted one club for another.

It included Grey Cup champion head coach Chris Jones leaving the Eskimos to join the Saskatchewan Roughriders, taking all but one of his staff with him. Eskimos GM Ed Hervey was fined by the league for bringing the league into “disrepute” for saying that tampering with other team’s personnel is commonplace in the CFL.

On Wednesday, there were reports that Thorpe had resigned as Montreal’s defensive co-ordinator and associate head coach even though he has two years left on his contract. He was expected to join Edmonton.

Alouettes GM and head coach Jim Popp had not responded to a request for comment.

Thorpe is believed to covet a head coaching job one day and likely wanted out when it was announced Popp would return as coach next season. The Alouettes are also thought to be grooming former star quarterback Anthony Calvillo for the job.

Alouettes defensive end John Bowman, the club’s all-time sacks leader, was disappointed that Thorpe would leave while still under contract.

“Football players can’t resign and go to another team,” said Bowman. “You’ve got to man up.

“If you don’t like the situation you’re in, you’ve got to play through it. That’s the route he chose to take. Me, I feel like if you sign a contract, I expect to live out the contract. Some people don’t see it that way and he chose a different route. Good luck to him and his family.”

Losing Thorpe would be a blow to the 5-13 Alouettes, who struggled on offence this season but kept most games close because of a solid defence.

But Bowman suggested it was less about the co-ordinator than it was the talent on the field.

“I’ve had five or six defensive co-ordinators; I’ve been an all-star seven years,” the 10-year veteran said. “A defensive co-ordinator shouldn’t make you or break you.

“He’s just here to implement his scheme and hopefully you’ve got players who can run his scheme.”

He said that if coaches are allowed to break contracts, top players may insist on one-year contracts because they want to know who their coaches and co-ordinators will be from one season to the next.

Bowman, a free agent, has yet to hear from Popp about a contract for next season. He had planned to retire after the 2015 campaign, but hopes to return after an excellent season in which he led the league with 19 sacks.

– CP