Blue Bomber Report Record: 7–11–0

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Blue on hunt for assistant to Mack

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IT might look like status quo on the outside, but the Winnipeg Blue Bombers are working on a major change that could have impact for years to come.

The CFL team is shopping for an assistant GM, who could very likely be the future leader of the organization's football operations.

The whittled-down list is comprised of three candidates -- B.C. Lions assistant GM Neil McEvoy, Hamilton Tiger-Cats co-ordinator of Canadian player development Drew Allemang and TSN analyst Duane Forde.

The quality of candidate the Bombers are aiming at suggests they are looking for an associate GM who will be groomed to take over the reins from Joe Mack at or near the end of the two years remaining on his current contract.

Bombers CEO Garth Buchko has stated he would like his GM to live in Winnipeg year-round and Mack, understandably, likes to spend a lot of time with his family in North Carolina.

Two CFL executives said Friday their understanding is Mack would continue to work mostly on personnel matters while the incoming executive would handle the day-to-day operation of the club and be the face of the Blue Bombers year-round in the community.

It's no secret Mack prefers to spend his time scouting and in the film room and Thursday's announcement that he would be retained came after lengthy discussions with Buchko about the department's organizational chart and potential succession planning.

McEvoy and the Lions are still very much in the Grey Cup hunt and Allemang's Tiger-Cats were eliminated on Thursday night. It's unknown if the Bombers have asked the candidates' current clubs for permission to speak to them, or if that process will wait until after the Grey Cup.

The Bombers have already begun discussions with Forde.

McEvoy has worked with the Lions for 17 years and would not be leaving the defending Grey Cup champion and one of the league's best organizations to get coffee for Mack.

McEvoy undoubtedly knows the lay of the land in Vancouver and is expected to succeed Lions GM Wally Buono when he retires in two to three years.

Making the move to Winnipeg would be contingent on top money and the guarantee of a quick rise up the organizational chart. So McEvoy's a long shot where the Blue Bombers are concerned.

TSN's Forde has carved out a reputation as a Canadian draft specialist, hosting his own Canadian content combine. His wife Sheri Forde is also a broadcaster with TSN.

Forde has been offered other top executive jobs in the CFL, including the GM position in Hamilton at one time. Again, he won't be coming to Winnipeg to be the travelling secretary. Forde will command big money and a direct route to the top chair. He'll also have options with both Ottawa, and likely Hamilton, on the market for GMs as well.

The Bombers will have to compete to get Forde and he'll have major leverage.

Allemang is regarded as one of the top young minds in the CFL and is about to move up the ladder in Hamilton if he stays.

Forde could also be back in the picture in Hamilton.

This search casts doubt on the future of current assistant GM Ross Hodgkinson, a longtime staffer. Hodgkinson's contract is about to expire and GM Joe Mack was evasive when asked about his assistant's future on Friday.

"All football operations is under review at this point and there is currently nothing to report. We are focused on this weekend's game and any changes, additions or otherwise to our football operations would be conducted at the conclusion of the season," said Mack via email. Twitter: @garylawless

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 3, 2012 C2

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About Gary Lawless

Gary Lawless is the Free Press sports columnist and co-host of the Hustler and Lawless show on TSN 1290 Winnipeg and
Lawless began covering sports as a rookie reporter at The Chronicle-Journal in Thunder Bay after graduating from journalism school at Durham College in Ontario.
After a Grey Cup winning stint with the Toronto Argonauts in the communications department, Lawless returned to Thunder Bay as sports editor.
In 1999 he joined the Free Press and after working on the night sports desk moved back into the field where he covered pro hockey, baseball and football beats prior to being named columnist.

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