WINNIPEG — Mike Kelly’s short and turbulent career as head coach of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers came to a crashing halt Thursday, the same day he was arrested in Pennsylvania on charges of assaulting an ex-girlfriend.
“We came to the conclusion tonight that . . . it was time to move on and find a new head coach,” chairman Ken Hildahl told reporters following an evening meeting of board members.
“We’ve seen some damage to the football club brand this year. I want to say to the fans that these moves are made to try and re-establish some of the trust that they should have in this football club.”
The announcement came just hours after Kelly was arrested at his Pennsylvania home after police responded to a reported domestic dispute.
Kelly was arrested and charged with simple assault and harassment. He was released pending a court appearance next week.
Hildahl said the charges have nothing to do with Kelly’s firing.
“We have to recognize that an incident did take place today (Thursday) but in the eyes of the of the law these are allegations and allegations only,” said Hildahl.
“Our review was, as I mentioned earlier today, based strictly on the past year’s performance.”
Speaking from Bridgeport, Penn., Sgt. John Cane said police responded to an argument at Kelly’s home that had apparently “turned physical.”
“The female involved in this case had very minor injuries. She had a small cut on her finger. She had another small cut or abrasion on her lip and she had some redness around her neck area.”
The woman did not require hospital treatment, Cane added, while Kelly also suffered some minor injuries.
“He had some bruising, or some redness, swelling to his face too,” Cane said.
Kelly took over the coaching spot a year ago from Doug Berry and led the Bombers to a 7-11 record — not good enough to make the playoffs. It was a disappointment for the team’s fans, who have suffered through 19 years without a Grey Cup victory
Kelly created a lot of controversy off the field as well. He was abrupt with fans who questioned his performance and stopped taking calls on a weekly phone-in radio program. He clashed with reporters, calling them “lazy asses” at one point and was eventually fined $2,000 by the league for a “continued pattern of disrespectful behaviour toward the media.”
The Bombers post was Kelly’s first job as a CFL head coach. In an email to The Canadian Press on Thursday night, Kelly declined comment and said that his agent and attorney would be making a statement.
Just hours before news of Kelly’s arrest emerged, Bombers president and CEO Lyle Bauer announced his resignation from the CFL club for personal and family reasons.
Bauer hired Kelly last December after firing Doug Berry following an 8-10 season in 2008. Kelly and Bauer have been friends since the mid-1990s, when Kelly was the Bombers’ offensive co-ordinator and Bauer its assistant general manager.