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Higgins hiring keeps coach, GM job separate: Als' owner

02/25/2014 12:46 EST | Updated 04/27/2014 05:59 EDT
New coach Tom Higgins wants the Montreal Alouettes to be as entertaining as ever but to win more games than last season.

Higgins took part in a conference call with team owner Bob Wetenhall and management in which they did their best to dispel notions of a rift with general manager Jim Popp.

"I've always marvelled at the level of talent in Montreal," said Higgins, an experienced coach who was hired on Monday after spending five years as the CFL's director of officiating. "I hope to bring a level of consistency and discipline.

"We are going to be competitive and entertaining. And when you start doing that and playing disciplined football, usually you win more than you lose."

The Alouettes will start the season with a new head coach for a second year in a row. Last season, Dan Hawkins was hired with no CFL experience and was fired after five games.

Popp took over for the remainder of an 8-10 campaign and had hoped to continue doing both jobs. But Wetenhall prefers having Popp stick to his GM duties.

"My basic goal was, to make sure we put the best team on the field, that we had a full time general manager and a full time head coach," said Wetenhall. "Jim jumped in last year, thank goodness, and did a wonderful job.

"But he [lives] in North Carolina. His travel schedule off-season is beyond belief. You can only ask people to do so much. I wanted to revert back to exactly what has given us this template for success for two decades now, which is a strong GM and a talented head coach."

His son Andrew Wetenhall said Popp was not involved in the process of hiring a coach because he was also a candidate and would have been in conflict of interest.

Neither Wetenhall not Popp would clarify the GM's contract status with the team. He has frequently been rumoured to be seeking a job with an NFL club.

But Popp said he was happy with the arrangement and wanted to stay with the Alouettes. He has been the team's GM since it returned to Montreal in 1996, and has had to step in as head coach three times.

"I've been with the Alouettes for 18 years — I plan on being there, it's my other home," said Popp. "I've had six children that were all born in Montreal and I really have no interest in leaving.

"Circumstances come up, but the organization knows how loyal I am. I'm a company man and it's a place I enjoy being. There's a lot that gets thrown around out there, a lot of it that's not true. But I'm very happy."

Higgins said he will be in Montreal and name his coaching staff with 10 days. The club still does not have an offensive co-ordinator.

However, he confirmed that former CFL player and Sherbrooke University head coach Andre Bolduc has been signed as an offensive assistant coach.

Higgins has been involved as player, coach and GM in the CFL for more than 30 years. He spent seven years as head coach in Calgary and Edmonton, winning a Grey Cup with the Eskimos in 2003.

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