2011 – Jim Popp

Jim Popp

Jim Popp comes from a hard-working, disciplined and loving family that has deep roots  in football thanks to his Dad, Joe. The senior Popp was an outstanding athlete during his time who became a renowned football coach.
Looking at Jim Popp’s accomplishments in the game, one could easily determine that he learned his lessons well and applied them to become one of pro football’s best all-time general managers.
Popp’s perennial winning performances as GM of the Montreal Alouettes have had him in the running for the Sports Media Canada George Gross Award as Executive of the Year every year since its inception in 2003.
We are proud to introduce Popp as our 2011 recipient for this honour not only for the current success of the Alouettes but club’s constant winning tradition. Popp’s incredible legacy as a GM in the CFL began with the Baltimore Stallions in 1994 and ’95. The Stallions reached the Grey Cup Championship each season. They went 12-6-0 in 1994 and lost the championship game but their 15-3-0 regular season in ’95 kept right on rolling as they became the first – and only – American team to capture the Grey Cup. The Stallions were an unprecedented 18-3-0 in the regular-season  and playoffs in 1995
The Stallions left Baltimore following the 1995 season and the CFL welcomed back the Alouettes – with Popp at the helm. What were trying times at first were eased on the field where the Als were 12-6-0 during that first year. It was the start of a blossoming love affair that grew with each season beyond that, a renaissance in Montreal for the Als and the CFL.
Through his first 15 full campaigns with the Als, Popp built them to a remarkable record of 176-93-1. Nearing the midway mark of 2011, Popp’s record as GM from 1994-on showed twice as many wins as losses (208-104-1).
The Alouettes have been in eight Grey Cup Championships during Popp’s tenure (2000, 2002, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2009 and 2010), capturing the title three times (2002, 2009 and 2010).
On August 3, 2010, the Als wisely took Popp out of the running for other pro football opportunities by extending his contract through 2014. Owner Bob Wetenhall, who bought the Als from Jim Speros in 1997, recognizes the first-class operation Popp has orchestrated and wasn’t about to see him depart La Belle Province. When Wetenhall bought the Als they faced challenges of establishing solid fan support, no player signings and an unsettled stadium issue. That quickly turned around with Popp in control.
“We had one asset and that was Jim Popp,” Wetenhall told the media of those initial days in 1997 when he proudly announced Popp’s extension last year. “Jim – and Jim alone – kept this team together in 1996. He has been the person who has built this team through five football coaches. Year in, year out, he’s a winner.”
Born in Elkin, North Carolina, the 46-year-old Popp is married to Kimberly Hamilton Popp of Glen Burnie, Maryland. Their six children were all born in Montreal as they embraced their new homeland as much as they were welcomed.
The Alouettes brought the Popps to Montreal but the move transformed into more than just  football employment.
“This is a very special place for me,” Popp said on the day of his extension. “I took some real chances to be a part of Montreal when we first started. No one knew what kind of success we would have. I am very grateful that Bob Wetenhall and the Montreal Alouettes organization have the confidence to allow me to continue supplying service to the team both now and for the future.
“The success we’ve achieved over the years is outstanding, and it’s a welcome challenge to try to continue staying at the top. Montreal, Quebec, Canada, and the Canadian Football League have treated my family and I well. We just love it!”
The Alouettes, led by Anthony Calvillo, compiled a record of 12-6-0 in 2010 and then became the first team since the 1996-97 Argos to win back-to-back Grey Cup titles.
Popp’s philosophy was summed up nicely on the eve of 2011 in an article by The Gazette’s Herb Zurkowsky.
“I’m here to have a good team – every year,” Popp said. “Not just one season and the moment. I want to be competitive more than for a year andthen have to reload. It’s a fine balance. It’s not just about today; it’s about nine games and two seasons from now.”
Jim Popp … a leader among sports executives.
…. by John Iaboni