Roughriders accept GM Tillman's resignation

Eric Tillman has resigned as general manager of the Saskatchewan Roughriders, team president Jim Hopson says.

Eric Tillman has resigned as general manager of the Saskatchewan Roughriders, team president and CEO Jim Hopson announced Friday afternoon in Regina.

"Effective today, Eric's association with the club is finished," Hopson told a packed news conference inside the team's locker-room at Mosaic Stadium in Regina.

"I think it's appropriate because Eric believes that he can't be successful and happy here, but also given the division in the fan base about this issue. You cannot make a decision based on fan polling and polling of people in general but I'd say this is one that has really brought out strong emotions on both sides."

Tillman's future with the team became the focus of intense speculation after he was charged with sexual assault. An informal online poll, on CBC Saskatchewan's website, showed that opinion was fairly evenly split on whether Tillman should be fired.

Hopson said the club would begin a search for a replacement immediately.

On Monday, Tillman, 52, pleaded guilty to sexual assault in relation to an incident involving his family's 16-year-old babysitter in August 2008.

Court heard that Tillman, who had taken muscle relaxants and sleep aids to alleviate back pain, had been acting "loopy" at work and went home. There, he went up to the family babysitter, grasped her at the waist and made a sexual motion.

Tillman received an absolute discharge in the case, meaning he will have no criminal record.

He had been on paid administrative leave from the CFL club since he was charged last February. However, he worked behind the scenes from his home throughout the season.

Jim Hopson, president and CEO of the Saskatchewan Roughriders, says he accepted Eric Tillman's resignation. (CBC)

Hopson said Tillman offered his resignation Wednesday, and the board of directors accepted it.

Would prefer to stay with league

Tillman, who was at the same news conference as his former boss, said he already has an opportunity to work in the United States. Despite the circumstances of his departure from Saskatchewan, Tillman said he'd like to remain in the CFL.

"I fully expect to be working in the Canadian Football League at some point in the future," he said, adding he was honoured to have been a part of the Roughriders organization for three and a half years.

Tillman said he reflected on his future, while he was alone in his home Tuesday, and determined that resigning was the best thing to do, "in the interests of the team."

He then recounted some of the high points in his tenure as GM, including two trips to the Grey Cup final, with one win.

He also spoke about the sexual assault incident and the impact it has had on his life.

"[It's] important to learn from life, from your worst mistakes and your worst moments," Tillman said. "And trust me, I have."

Tillman was hired as Roughriders GM in August 2006.

Originally from Mississippi, he enjoyed great success in the CFL as a GM. He helped lead the Riders 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.

He was general manager of the expansion Ottawa Renegades for three seasons before returning to broadcasting and ultimately landing the post with the Riders. In July 2008, the team rewarded him with a contract extension through 2010.

When Tillman was hired by Saskatchewan in 2006, he took over a team whose reputation had been tarnished when 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