Hervey came to the Lions at the end of 2017.
The news ripped through the CFL like an asteroid burning through the atmosphere, which if it happened in reality, wouldn’t be a surprise for 2020. We’ve had murder hornets, a deadly pandemic, climate-change supercharged forest fires and riots in the streets along with economic and sociological upheaval.
And for the B.C. Lions, already in turmoil after having their season annulled by COVID-19, they took another blow when Ed Hervey informed the team Friday morning that he was stepping down for personal reasons.
“It’s a crazy year, and one I think we’ll all remember,” said Lions coach Rick Campbell. “And sometimes, we’re going to want to forget it too.”
The unexpected news of Hervey’s departure left the organization stunned. He’d lured some of the most coveted prizes in the CFL to Vancouver, winning the free agent sweepstakes for 2017 MOP Mike Reilly in 2018, then bringing Campbell, who was a hot coaching commodity after taking the Ottawa Redblacks to three Grey Cups — winning once — after six years with the club.
Hervey came to the Lions at the end of 2017, his first management position since holding the same job during a three-year span with the Edmonton Eskimos (2013-16) that included the 2015 Cup. Hervey joined B.C. as Wally Buono was transitioning out of football, and took the club back to the post-season during his first year, after the team’s 20-year playoff streak ended in 2017. The Leos went 14-22 in Hervey’s time here, but there were no questions internally about his ability or results, and he had signed a two-year contract extension before the start of the 2019 season. His departure was purely for family reasons.
For Campbell, still trying to process the news just hours after hearing it on Friday, it was a tough pill to swallow. He was a coach with the Eskimos from 1999-08, while Hervey was still terrorizing the league as a receiver during his playing days (1999-06). Campbell returned to Edmonton as an assistant coach in 2011, when by that time, Hervey had retired from playing and worked his way up the front-office ranks to head coach.
The tenure of Lions president Rick LeLacheur also overlapped theirs in Edmonton, as he served as the Esks’ CEO from 2002-11.
“Ed and Rick LeLacheur were two of the reasons why I came here,” said Campbell, who got the chance to speak with Hervey on Friday morning. “I’ve know them for a long time. I’ve known Ed on-and-off the field quite well, and he was one of the reasons I wanted to be part of this (project).
“When he told me the news, No. 1, I wanted to make sure he was OK personally. Professionally, we have to keep on carrying on. Obviously it’s fresh right now, so we’re still processing the whole thing. But we have enough experience in the building … that we can hold down the fort.”
LeLacheur said there was no succession plan in place yet, unsurprising considering the timing of Hervey’s departure and the current state of the CFL, but was confident his front office wasn’t one-dimensional or overly reliant on a single person.
Neil McEvoy (director, football operations); Torey Hunter (director, player personnel and player development); Rob Ralph (director, Canadian scouting and CFL draft coordinator); and Geroy Simon (director, global scouting and U.S. regional scout) will continue to work with Campbell to maintain the continuity of football operations.
No date for the return to league play has been set, so Campbell and his coaching staff have been watching hours of film on players, both pro and amateur. Campbell and his wife moved to Vancouver after he was hired in December 2019, and nothing — not COVID-19, nor the lost CFL season, nor Hervey’s departure — is going to change that.
“I’m fully invested (in the Lions),” said Campbell. “Ed’s a big loss. He’s really good at what he does, I enjoy working with him. We will definitely be going to miss him. (But) in pro sports, you have to keep moving forward. While it’s definitely disappointing to lose him, at the same time, the world keeps spinning and other teams are still working, so we have to too.
“We have to make sure we do whatever we can to make the Lions successful in 2021. There’s a lot of people in the building who want to be part of the Lions winning. And that’s not changing for me. I want to be here, I want to be a part of it, and there’s lots of people who feel the same way.
“With the mode the league is in right now, in a slow time, I think it gives us some time to make sure we get it all figured out the way we want.”