Blue Bombers fire head coach Kelly
Winnipeg Blue Bombers coach Mike Kelly was fired by the CFL team's board of directors Thursday.
Kelly, arrested in the U.S. after an alleged domestic violence incident on Thursday morning, was "relieved of his duties as head coach" after a short evening meeting of the Blue Bombers board of directors, board chairman Ken Hildahl said in a statement issued at 7:45 p.m. CT.
The board scrambled late Thursday to call an emergency meeting to discuss Kelly's arrest and his future with the football club.
However, Hildahl said Kelly's current legal troubles didn't play into the 11-member board's unanimous decision, and said Kelly's firing was "based strictly on the past year's performance."
"We have to recognize that an incident did take place today, but in the eyes of the of the law these are allegations and allegations only," Hildahl said.
He suggested Kelly was asked to resign, but refused.
"It would have been our preference that the head coach resign but that didn't materialize, so we're here tonight, the board dealt with it, we think it's in the best interest of the Winnipeg football club moving forward," Hildahl said.
Hildahl said prior to the meeting that every Blue Bomber contract has a clause requiring employees to conduct themselves in a professional manner. He wouldn't disclose if the Bombers will be forced to pay Kelly for the two years remaining on his contract.
Firing comes on heels of arrest
Kelly was arrested Thursday at his home in Bridgeport, Pa., near Philadelphia, and charged with assault and harassment after an alleged domestic dispute.
Bridgeport police said they went to Kelly's home just after 11 a.m. ET after Kelly's former girlfriend called 911.
When police arrived, Kelly and the woman allegedly continued to argue before he was taken to the station, Sgt. John Cane said. Kelly was later released pending a court appearance next week.
Police said the woman had a cut on her lip, redness on her neck and a small cut on her finger, while Kelly, 51, had some bruising on his face.
He's due to appear in court on Dec. 23.
Kelly declined comment on Thursday and said that his agent and attorney would be making a statement.
Was returning for 2nd season
The team had recently backed the beleaguered and controversial Kelly after a poor first season as Winnipeg's head coach.
The Bombers seven-win, 11-loss 2009 campaign was marred by a number of outbursts by Kelly that caused some fans to balk because of his perceived arrogance.
He was also sometimes rude and abrupt with the media and was fined $2,000 by the CFL for his "continued pattern of disrespectful behaviour towards the media."
On the field he went with unproven starting quarterback Stefan LeFors, who was replaced after four games with free agent Michael Bishop.
Kelly handled the offence most of the season and it was one of the team's most inconsistent areas.
While some fans stood by him throughout the season, many were calling for Kelly's head by its end.
More than 5,500 people have joined a Facebook group called Fire Mike Kelly, which was started in September after a 55-10 loss at home to arch-rivals the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
After news of his arrest broke, people belonging to the group renewed their calls for Kelly's dismissal.
"This man makes the CFL look bad. Time to go, enough with the clouds that surround this man. Tired of no respect in the Bomber organization," wrote Nairn Kenneth Baker.
"Not even surprised. Bye Bye, Mr. Kelly. I won't miss ya," wrote Keenan Rempel.
With file from The Canadian Press