The general manager of the Saskatchewan Roughriders has been put on leave while he faces a charge of sexual assault.

Club president Jim Hopson said Eric Tillman's assistants will replace him until the legal process is completed.

Saskatchewan police say their charge against Tillman stems from an alleged encounter with a 16-year-old girl last summer in Regina. Tillman, 51, was arrested Jan. 27 and turned himself into police. He was released and is to appear in court Feb. 24.


Police spokesperson Elizabeth Popowich said an assault is alleged to have occurred Aug. 6 and was reported to police three days later.

Tillman, a native of Jackson, Miss., and the son of a minister, has been involved in football for nearly 30 years. The married father of two young children graduated from Ole Miss in 1979 with a journalism degree.

He joined the Riders in August 2006, replacing the fired Roy Shivers, and had the mandate of trying to change the culture of a team that was developing a tarnished image within the Saskatchewan capital. Months before Tillman’s hiring, Riders linebacker Trevis Smith was charged with aggravated sexual assault for knowingly exposing two women to the HIV virus by having unprotected sex with them and not revealing his condition.

In February 2007, Smith was found guilty of two counts of aggravated sexual assault and received a five-year jail sentence. He’s scheduled to be released Feb. 25 and deported to the United States.

But Smith wasn’t the only Roughrider to get in trouble with the law. Between 1999 and 2007 more than a few players made headlines for off-field incidents ranging from drug possession to assault.

Tillman’s deft moves and tough budgetary decisions helped put the emphasis back on the field and away from the courts. His efforts were rewarded in 2007, when the Riders won the Grey Cup, their first since 1989 and third overall.

Tillman also has served as GM of the B.C. Lions and Toronto Argonauts. He also worked as a television analyst with TSN and Rogers Sportsnet.

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