Splitting general manager duties might be an unusual practice among CFL clubs, but the B.C. Lions have found a way to make it work.
The Lions split GM duties between head coach Rick Campbell and director of football operations Neil McEvoy before the 2021 season after former GM Ed Hervey stepped down. The duo helped the Lions to a breakout season in 2022, culminating in the team’s first trip to the West Division final since 2016.
Campbell and McEvoy were rewarded Wednesday with contract extensions through the 2024 season.
“I don’t take any of this for granted, so anytime you have an opportunity to keep going I I definitely appreciate it,” Campbell said from Vancouver in a video conference Wednesday.
The Lions, with Canadian quarterback Nathan Rourke leading the way, finished with a 12-6 record in 2022, good for second place in the West Division standings.
The team fell just short of reaching its first Grey Cup final since winning the title in 2011 when it fell 28-20 in the West Division final.
Campbell said communication is key to making the co-GM strategy work.
“I think if we had a if we had to make a huge decision and we were just in a huge disagreement about it, then one, I don’t think we had done our homework and two, we’d have to talk to the big bosses upstairs to break a tie.
“We just haven’t had that issue because we always just talk.”
Added McEvoy: “Coach does a great job at dealing with the football team, I do a good job with dealing with the paperwork part of it and it just works for us.
“It’s a great situation for both of us.”
McEvoy is entering his 28th season with the Lions. He has played a role in various front-office duties including contract negotiations, Canadian scouting, training camp preparation and team travel.
“You know, it’s something that I pride myself on being a long term employee of the B.C. Lions, which was when I first started exactly where I wanted to be,” McEvoy said.
“When you look at the guys like (former athletic therapist) Bill Reichelt and and (former equipment manager) Ken Kasuya and guys that have been with the organization for so long when I first started, I thought ‘you know what I like to be a guy like that.’
“And here I am 28 years later, I guess I am a guy like that.”
Campbell was hired as head coach in December 2019 after six seasons in Ottawa and said he appreciated the institutional knowledge McEvoy brought to the table.
“I have a huge amount of respect for people who have been around organizations and understand history and culture and all those things,” Campbell said.
“Neil is a walking encyclopedia of the B.C. Lions and that helps to just understand. It gives you reference points on why things are the way they are or why things need to change or any of those things.”
With the Lions’ coaching staff settled, Campbell said the next priority is to re-sign players hitting free agency. There is also the possibility Rourke finds work south of the border. The quarterback is under contract through next season but is eligible to join an NFL team and has been working out with a few.
The Lions also have veteran quarterback Vernon Adams Jr., who they acquired from Montreal on Aug. 31 for their first-round selection in the 2023 CFL draft.
Asked if the GMs would feel comfortable starting the next season with Adams under centre, Campbell said “100 per cent.”
Campbell started his CFL coaching career in 1999 with Edmonton as the defensive backs coach and special teams co-ordinator.
He got his first head coaching job with the Redblacks in their 2014 expansion season. The club won a Grey Cup in 2016 and advanced to two other finals under his watch.
Campbell and the Redblacks mutually agreed to part ways after the team went 3-15 in 2019. After joining the Lions, he had to wait until 2021 to take the field with his new club when the 2020 season was cancelled due to COVID-19 restrictions.
—Curtis Withers, The Canadian Press