It’s time for another round of CFL commissioner for a day, where I get to be a benevolent dictator and decide league policy and direction with little or no consultation about my decisions. It would either cause a bold leap forward or the complete collapse of the league — you decide.
First, I would revisit the TV contract with TSN. This is a very disagreeable arrangement that binds the CFL to a network with no interest in the league beyond its status as a placeholder for state-mandated CRTC Canadian content regulations.
The main focus of TSN is all things Toronto, with a particularly unwholesome obsession with the Maple Leafs, despite their legendary level of mediocrity. God help us if the Leafs ever win another Stanley Cup.
The other Toronto sports teams fall in behind the Leafs, but a serious championship run by the Jays or Raptors would bury the rest of Canada in an avalanche of born-again national pride courtesy of a team of overpaid international mercenaries. It’s a rock solid bet that the whole thing would be overblown by the Toronto Sports Network.
TSN would be toast under my watch. I would start a Canadian Football Network that would carry all games — including exhibition games as well as top tier amateur Canadian football leagues.
The idea is not crazy. Last weekend, 1.13 million viewers watched the ’Rider-Eskimo game even though they played directly against the Sunday afternoon NFL machine. The game blew away the competition despite TSN’s two-hour NFL lead-in show to their CFL games. Just think of all those cable channels you never watch that survive with a fraction of those numbers.
Let me put the ratings in perspective: Last spring the Flames-Chicago playoff series peaked at 938,000 and fell to 727,000 on TSN. The prevailing logic for TSN would be to lean toward the bigger numbers, but they ignore the obvious despite the bigger CFL numbers. I would dump TSN faster than you could open a bottle of champagne to celebrate the occasion.
I would also hire full-time on-field officials for the league. Right now, the league is plagued by incredibly inconsistent calls by the officials and the image of the league suffers from their ineptitude. An upgrade in this area is desperately required by the league and they have the resources to make it happen. This one is a no-brainer.
My next change would be a controversial issue because I would tinker with the roster ratios on CFL teams. I would drop the Canadian player game day roster down to 10 players and leave the field wide open to the best player of any nationality for the next 32 players.
Then I would allow the teams to field four Canadians as extra game day roster players and thus expand the teams’ sideline rosters to 46 actual players at each team’s discretion.
Right now, teams already carry four extra roster players but they are not allowed to suit up on game day. This makes no sense to me but that’s how they do things, and these guys are not practice roster players.
I have a few more ideas for a future column as CFL head honcho.
Jim Sutherland is a local freelance writer. His column on the CFL appears on Tuesdays and Fridays. He may be reached at mystarcollector.com