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Barney Welch’s first year as general manager of the Indoor Football League’s Abilene Ruff Riders ended abruptly Tuesday with his firing.
Welch said he wasn’t given a reason for the dismissal.
“Why? I have no idea,” Welch said. “They blind-sided me basically.”
Fired from the Ruff Rider staff were Welch, its office manager (Welch’s wife Mia) and an office assistant.
Welch’s firing surprised one of the team’s biggest corporate sponsors — Mike Dunnahoo of Star Dodge — and others.
“Barney and I had a good relationship,” Dunnahoo said.
Dunnahoo said he plans on speaking with Ruff Riders owners to find out more but still planned on being a corporate sponsor during the 2010 season.
Dane Lisser, Ruff Riders spokesman, said Welch was fired after meeting with team owners Tuesday morning.
Lisser said some departments were allegedly “being run improperly” and that there’s “some speculation involving corporate sponsors.” Lisser declined to specify how or what was involved.
The Ruff Riders are owned by Allegiance Pro Sports Inc., which also owns the Odessa Roughnecks and El Paso Generals, plus a 50 percent interest in the San Angelo Stampede-Express.
Welch said he wants to make sure his name isn’t tarnished, especially after reaching agreement with Ruff Riders ownership that “we’re not going to bad mouth” each other.
“I can tell you for a fact it was not embezzlement,” Welch said.
Welch said he “gave them (owners) everything that they wanted, all the paperwork that they wanted, all the merchandise that they owned.”
“The merchandise was accounted for,” Welch said.
Welch said he believes so strongly in the Ruff Riders that he will continue with efforts to buy the team.
The search for Welch’s replacement will likely begin after the Indoor Football League playoffs are over.
Before joining the Ruff Riders, Welch served with the IFL’s Odessa Roughnecks since that franchise’s inception, working his way up from assistant ticket director to assistant general manager.
During its first year in Abilene, the Ruff Riders finished 8-6 in the regular season and lost 37-34 to San Angelo during the first round of the IFL playoffs.
In previous stories, Welch said team officials were pleased with the Ruff Riders first year in Abilene, and were making plans for next season.
The Indoor Football League team is Abilene’s first professional team since the Abilene Aviators folded in 1999 because of financial problems.
Ruff Riders fire General Manager Barney Welch (Abilene Reporter News)