REGINA - The Crown has opted to proceed on a less serious track as it pursues a sexual assault case against former Ottawa Renegades GM and current Saskatchewan Roughriders GM Eric Tillman.

Tillman's first appearance Tuesday in Regina provincial court lasted less than a minute. He did not even appear himself, but was represented by his lawyer, Aaron Fox.

Prosecutor Mitch Crumley told court the Crown will proceed summarily against Tillman, meaning that the sexual assault charge is considered a lesser offence.

A summary conviction for sexual assault carries a maximum sentence of 18 months in jail, while an indictable sexual assault conviction carries a maximum sentence of 10 years.

The next court date was set for March 17.

Tillman, who achieved hero status in Saskatchewan after leading the CFL Roughriders to a Grey Cup in 2007, was charged with sexual assault last month for an alleged encounter that took place last August. The complainant in the case was 16 years old at the time.

In a news conference called by Tillman and Fox on Feb. 3, the lawyer suggested there could be developments in the case before Tuesday's court date, but nothing has happened publicly.

Fox declined to comment to a large crowd of reporters gathered for Tuesday's hearing.

Senior Crown lawyer Bill Burge will be prosecuting Tillman. Burge previously prosecuted the aggravated sexual assault trial of former Saskatchewan Roughrider Trevis Smith.

Tillman, a married father of two, was placed on paid administrative leave by the Riders when news of the charge broke.

The team's senior football operations staff, led by head coach Ken Miller, has been negotiating player contracts since then.

Tillman, 51, was hired by the Roughriders in August 2006 and led the team to a Grey Cup title the following season.

He hired head coach Kent Austin before the 2007 season, cut the club's payroll to meet the CFL's salary cap and worked to clean up the team's image after several players made headlines for off-field incidents resulting in charges.

Tillman's championship with the Riders was his third. He also won Grey Cups as general manager of the B.C. Lions in 1994 and the Toronto Argonauts in 1997.