Eric Tillman resigns as Roughriders GM
Published Friday, January 8, 2010 4:12PM EST
Saskatchewan Roughriders general manager Eric Tillman has resigned in an emotional news conference four days after pleading guilty to sexual assault.
"I've fallen in love with this province and I've fallen in love with this football team...but when you take the emotion out of the equation...there was no doubt that this was the right thing," Tillman said in a news conference Friday.
"You learn from life, from your worst mistakes and worst moments, and trust me, I have, I have," Tillman said, at times taking deep breaths to keep his composure.
He thanked his family, team mates, and the people of Saskatchewan for making his stay in the province so enjoyable, and said it will be the first time in his career that he will really miss the friends he made after he plans to move.
"I'm sorry, truly sorry for the note on which it ended," Tillman said.
"If nothing else...I hope that I am remembered as the guy who loved this franchise, that treasured this province and its passionate fans, and gave you absolutely everything I had," he said.
He said resigning was the best thing to do for the Roughriders because fan opinion over his case was split.
"This team has the chance to be phenomenal over the next few years -- such standards that people haven't seen here in a long, long time -- and it needs a united fan base, and there were just too many divisions," he said.
Tillman said he expects to find other work in the CFL in the future, and has a job offer in the U.S., but said he may not accept it because it would bring up immigration issues for his wife and children, who are Canadian. Tillman is American.
Saskatchewan Roughriders CEO Jim Hopson said Friday that Tillman had offered to step down and the board of directors accepted.
"Effective today, Eric's association with the club is finished," he said.
"Given our community ownership, our code of conduct, the expectation of our fan base...you ultimately have to look at what is best for the Saskatchewan Roughriders," he said.
Hopson said that the search for a replacement began Friday.
"Is Eric going to be missed in terms of his football expertise? Absolutely," said Hopson. "But the strength we have now, I'm very confident the organization will be able to move forward and be successful into the future."
On Monday, Tillman told a court he sexually assaulted a 16-year-old babysitter who was taking care of his children in 2008.
The court heard that he grabbed her by the hips and pulled her into his body in a "sexual nature."
His defence lawyer, Aaron Fox, said Tillman wasn't thinking clearly because he had taken too much medication for his sore back, along with sleep aids.
Tillman was given an absolute discharge after a judge said he believed Tillman was remorseful.
"I've lived 52 years, I hope that I am not identified by 10-15 seconds," Tillman said Friday. "But each person has to make that assessment."
Tillman was on paid administrative leave from the CFL club since he was charged last February. However, he continued to work behind the scenes from his home throughout the season.
Tillman led the Roughriders to the Grey Cup championship in 2007 and led the B.C. Lions and Toronto Argonauts to Grey Cup titles in 1994 and 1997, respectively.
When Tillman was hired by the Riders in 2006, he took over a team that had a tarnished reputation in the community because several players ran into trouble with the law.
He preached a message of respect and promised to clean up the team's image. The Riders adopted a code of conduct requiring players to obey the law, act with honesty and integrity, respect others and take responsibility for their actions.
With files from The Canadian Press