The Ottawa RedBlacks are going with a rookie head coach in their rookie season.
Sportsnet.ca has learned Rick Campbell, the Calgary Stampeders defensive coordinator, will be the inaugural head coach of the CFL’s expansion franchise in the nation’s capital.
Campbell came to terms with the RedBlacks on Wednesday and an official announcement will likely come Friday by the organization.
Ottawa is returning to the Canadian Football League for a third time, and will play in the 2014 schedule.
Campbell has coached in the CFL since 1999, but has always been an assistant. Besides working 2009 in Winnipeg under Mike Kelly, he’s gone back and forth between the Stampeders and Edmonton Eskimos.
The RedBlacks job has been one of the most coveted in league circles all year. Coaches have talked about the opportunity to run a franchise from its infancy and there were no shortage of candidates who were in the conversation about becoming Ottawa’s head coach.
Paul LaPolice, formerly of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, was a runner-up for the job. Also in the mix were former CFL head coaches Greg Marshall (Saskatchewan), Doug Berry (Winnipeg), Marcel Bellefeuille (Hamilton), and while sources told Sportsnet that one-time Edmonton Eskimos coach Danny Maciocia interviewed for the position, Maciocia, through a Carabins spokesman, insisted he was not interested in leaving his post running the University of Montreal football program.
Campbell’s background has primarily been on the defensive side of the football, and on special teams. He was mentioned as a frontrunner for the Eskimos head coaching position this off-season, a job that ultimately went to Chris Jones, whom he succeeded as defensive coordinator in Calgary.
With Campbell secured as coach, the RedBlacks focus now becomes putting together a roster. The eight other teams in the league must submit a protected list of players by Dec. 9, a week before the league holds an expansion draft. Incredibly, the CFL is keeping those protected lists confidential to “protect the integrity of the game,” according to commissioner Mark Cohon.
Under Campbell, the Stampeders had three defensive league all-stars in 2012 and Charleston Hughes was a unanimous selection this year.