Kent Austin will become the next head coach of the Saskatchewan Roughriders, Metro has learned.

Austin, recently fired as the Argonauts’ offensive co-ordinator, is a former all-star quarterback with the Riders and a close friend of Eric Tillman, who will officially be identified as the club’s new general manager this week, probably today.


Tillman has signed a three-year deal with the Riders and succeeds Roy Shivers, who was fired on Monday.

Austin’s hiring will not be immediate. Sources have told Metro that Austin has been informed by Tillman that he will replace Danny Barrett this season if the Riders remain inconsistent. Should they get hot, Barrett will stick around, but only until the end of this season, when his contract expires. Austin would then take over immediately after this season, the sources said.

Austin has been living in Toronto and has been following the CFL closely since being fired by the Argos a few weeks ago.

It was Tillman who gave Austin his first coaching job a few years ago. Austin became the Ottawa Renegades’ offensive co-ordinator while Tillman was their GM. Both men hail from Mississippi.

Tillman also has had GM stints and/or front-office roles with the Montreal Alouettes, B.C. Lions and Argos. He has spent the past couple of years as a CFL analyst with Rogers Sportsnet and CBC.

• Tillman and Austin are both represented by agent Gil Scott, who didn’t wish to comment much yesterday other than to say that he still doesn’t understand why the Argos fired Austin.

“I haven’t been able to get a straight answer,” said Scott, who also represents Toronto GM Adam Rita and head coach Michael “Pinball” Clemons. “Firing Kent made no sense to me, and I know it made no sense to Eric, who criticized the Argos publicly.”

• Former Blue Jays infielder Shea Hillenbrand has found some vindication from Monday night’s confrontation between pitcher Ted Lilly and manager John Gibbons. Before the Giants acquired Hillenbrand last month, Gibbons challenged him to a fight after a series of incidents that tarnished the player’s reputation.

“They say I was a cancer on the team and things continue to happen, so I don’t know,” Hillenbrand told the San Francisco Chronicle. “Things slowly come out when times get tough. All I know is, Lilly is a great guy. I’m very surprised that confrontation happened with Ted.”

Lilly, by the way, will be a free agent this winter and has let it be known that he wants to pitch for the Giants next season.

Marty York’s column appears Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. Listen for Marty on The ROCK 94.9 FM, Monday and Friday at 8:40 a.m.

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