Tom Higgins is back in the Canadian Football League. The Calgary Stampeders made it official on Friday, naming Higgins their coach and vice-president of football operations.

Higgins, who replaces recently-deposed general manager and head coach Matt Dunigan, spent time with the CFL team in the early 1990s under former coach Wally Buono.

Defensive co-ordinator Denny Creehan was promoted to assistant coach and the plan is for him to succeed Higgins as head coach in 2006.

"The pieces of the puzzle are being put in place," said Higgins. "I'd like to know by the end of next week to know pretty much who our whole coaching stuff is going to be."

"I believe we can be competitive right out of the blocks," added Higgins.

Former coach Jim Barker returns to the club as general manager and head of player personnel.

And Ted Hellard – part of the new ownership group along with John Forzani, Dave Sapunjis and Doug Mitchell – will serve as interim president for a maximum of two years.

"There is actually a five- to 10-year plan," Forzani told a news conference. "But for us, the changes are all in place."

The new owners took control of the team from Michael Feterik on Wednesday and on Thursday, they cleaned house, firing Dunigan and president Ron Rooke, the two highest-ranking holdovers, after a disappointing 4-14 season.

Higgins resigned as head coach of the Edmonton Eskimos on Nov. 10, less than a year after winning the Grey Cup and coach of the year honours.

The decision was made three days after the Eskimos fell 14-6 to the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the Western semifinal.

Higgins, who was 44-28-0-1 as head coach, joined the Eskimos in 1993 as assistant GM.

He was promoted to GM and chief operating officer for four years before being named head coach in June 2001.

"He brings a winning record with him, he did nothing but win up there in Edmonton," said Calgary linebacker Scott Coe. "It's going to spread like wildfire here around here. That's just the type of personality he has."

with files from Canadian Press