Miller named new president and CEO of Blue Bombers

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The Canadian Press
11/12/2013 6:24:54 PM
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WINNIPEG -- Wade Miller barely smiled Tuesday as he discussed the "acting" tag being removed from his title of Winnipeg Blue Bombers president and chief executive officer.

Maybe it was because he's not comfortable facing a room of reporters, but more likely it's because he's all business when it comes to turning around the floundering CFL club.

And that won't be an easy task.

The Bombers finished this season with a league-worst record of 3-15 that tied a franchise-low mark for an 18-game schedule. They've missed the playoffs four of the past five years and haven't won a Grey Cup for a league-high 23 seasons.

"Life takes you in different paths and this is the direction I'm going down now and I look forward to the challenge," Miller said after he was appointed to officially oversee a team he played for from 1995-2005.

The 40-year-old former fullback/linebacker was named the team's acting president and CEO on Aug. 9 following the firing of Garth Buchko.

Miller's first move was to fire general manager Joe Mack and elevate assistant GM Kyle Walters into an acting GM role.

Miller's long to-do list begins with either stripping Walters of his acting title or finding someone to replace him.

"We're two to four weeks away from being able to make that determination on that position," he said.

He'll also have a hand in football operations with the person who ends up with the GM's job.

"The general manager's got a role to do in the organization and I expect them to do that to the best of their ability, and I'll be involved in football as anybody would be when it's such a critical part of our business," Miller said.

The Bombers also have question marks surrounding their coaching staff.

Mack had fired head coach Paul LaPolice in August 2012 and defensive co-ordinator Tim Burke took over on an interim basis until he was given the job last November.

Burke's first full season was an uphill battle as Mack kept often-injured Buck Pierce as the team's starting quarterback. Pierce ended up getting injured, his young backups didn't flourish and then Pierce was traded in September.

If the club's GM decides a new head coach is needed -- the team has had five in nine years -- Miller said he'll be involved in that hiring process.

"I'll work with the general manager and be that second interview that you should do within any organization," he said. "It's such a key position for us."

Miller co-founded Pinnacle Staffing Solutions in 2002 and helped build it into Manitoba's largest recruitment firm. He's also a partner in Elite Performance (a high-performance training centre), three Elite Sports Injury clinics and two Booster Juice franchises.

Bombers board chairman Brock Bulbuck attended Tuesday's announcement and said the board didn't conduct a formal process to look outside the club for another candidate while Miller had the acting title.

"We obviously kept our ears to the ground, effectively to be able to move on a Plan B if we needed to," Bulbuck said. "But we also needed to respect and give Wade the confidence that was necessary in order for him to be able to undertake the role that he had agreed to."

Miller has "free rein" to hire a GM and doesn't need board approval, he added.

When Miller was hired in August, it was believed he was the "right man for the job" and he's "proven" himself as a leader with good business acumen, Bulbuck said.

"He brought an extreme passion and fan and sponsor focus to the organization," he said. "(He) effectively instilled a culture and an expectation of winning and us needing to do whatever it takes in order to be competitive on the field and in the business office."

He wouldn't divulge Miller's contract term, but said it was a typical CEO term that was "not a very short term and not an extremely long term."

"We want to return this organization to the successful history that it has enjoyed in the past," Bulbuck said. "And I believe that we started to make those changes, but they will not happen overnight, just as the change we made in August was not able to translate into on-field performance overnight."

Miller, a former University of Manitoba player drafted by the Bombers in 1995, defied the odds by making the CFL squad. His tenacity and football smarts carried him through an 11-year career, including twice being named an East Division all-star. He left the club as its leader in career special-teams tackles.

Now he's ready to tackle many more challenges.

"The football club means a lot to me," Miller said. "We need to bring this organization up to where it should be in terms of the connection we have with our community, being competitive on the football field and those are the challenges I take on."

Winnipeg Blue Bombers (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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