Blue Bomber Report Record: 7–11–0

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Buchko landed dream job at nightmare time

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THE new year 2012 was only four days old when Garth Buchko was unveiled as new Blue Bombers CEO, timing that spoke of fresh starts and new hope.

For Buchko it was a dream job, but the former CJOB general manager joined the club at a nightmare time. The Bombers CEO position had been unstable ever since Lyle Bauer stepped down in 2009, even as the club navigated the construction of its shining new stadium near the University of Manitoba.

So the Winnipeg Football Club needed a manager who could steer the ship straight. They considered up to 75 candidates, and even though Buchko had no football experience, they thought his resume in the results-based world of broadcast management would make him their guy.

It wasn't long before things started to go wrong. Construction on the new stadium was already well behind schedule when Buchko took over, but the incoming CEO stated bluntly there was "no chance" the Bombers would play another game at CanadInns.

Buchko, who was unavailable for comment Friday, later stated he just passed along information from contractors, but the Bombers ended up playing the entire 2012 season at the old stadium, triggering a brouhaha over tickets. The communications mess was at best inauspicious, and at worst inflamed fans' concerns about the club's management.

Then there was the issue of Joe Mack. Buchko didn't hire Mack, and hinted the GM was next on the hot seat after the 2012 firing of coach Paul LaPolice. But he also hitched his wagon to the struggling GM when he handed Mack a two-year extension after last season, when the Bombers went 6-12.

That decision, ultimately, would force the board's hand: after 2013's 1-5 start it was clear Mack was done, and so Buchko had to go too. Still, on Friday board chair Brock Bulbuck acknowledged the mess that Buchko had walked into.

"Garth took on the immense task of opening Investors Group Field, and along with this path, inherited a lot of issues that were not of his making," Bulbuck said. "We are grateful for his tireless efforts."

-- Melissa Martin

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 10, 2013 C3

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