Notebook – October 2, 2006

A short Notebook page this week, covering the CFL Salary Management System, Ottawa and more.

CFL Salary Management System Blues

Now updated, the CFL press release announcing the Salary Management System (SMS) cap figure for 2007 that I read when first posted had some different wording that appears now. The most obvious was when scanning the article for the new figure; there was no mention of it. The line to the effect “In accordance with CFL policy financial details were not disclosed” was included. Yet all other media reports listed a $4.05 million cap. Second, the release stated that penalties would not be in place for exceeding the 2007 cap. Reading the release now, these items have been corrected. Either I was on another bender or my memory is bad to the point of making things up. Perhaps the CFL even screwed up the press release and corrected it later.

So the good news is that there will be a firm cap with penalties in place for 2007, with auditing and transparency of player contracts (at least that is what we expect, how enforced the cap will be remains to be seen). The bad news is that the cap figure was increased $250,000 from $3.8 million proposed initially. This increased was based on governors looking at their current “costs and commitments” and deriving a figure from it. I hope that they considered the money coming in as well. I do not want to see stories and reports of red ink from all the franchises next year. There is no excuse when your revenues are certain and there is a cap in place.

I have a feeling that the private owners are willing to take losses in the next couple of years with the expectation that a much larger television contract is coming in 2008.

Ottawa Situation Update

First came the news that the league meetings with the groups bidding for an Ottawa franchise were delayed. Then the news that the CFL had set 2008 as the earliest return date for Ottawa, the pleasure of some of the bidders. Ted Hellard, chair of the CFL‘s franchise committee, stated that the CFL has “never made a factual statement that there will be no team in Ottawa-Gatineau in 2007“. Why the CFL does not make this clear to the fans in Ottawa and across Canada, I do not know. It seems it would be more prudent to get out in front of this speculation rather than appear to be leading the people on.

If you want speculation and predictions though, I will come out and say that the Golden Gate Capital group will be awarded the franchise for 2008, with an announcement coming Grey Cup week. I will go out further and predict Jeff Hunt will succeed in selling out the first game in Ottawa and average 25,000 in their first season as he has stated. The year plus to get the franchise ready on the field and sell tickets will be the cornerstone of their success.

Replay Assisted Calls Rear Ugly Head

There has been a lot of talk about a botched call reviewed on instant replay in the Toronto-Calgary game Saturday. The CFL‘s Director of Officiating George Black backed the call today, but probably created more confusion than clarity to the situation. Rule 6: Passing, Section 4: Forward Pass, Article 6: Incomplete Forward Pass, point e of the CFL rulebook was cited, but without a real-world explanation, many fail to see the point. First, you have to remember the replay, which takes 10 seconds to show in slow motion, is actually 2-3 seconds of real time. How I saw it was Ron Johnson caught the ball in the air and when his feet before his body hit the ground the ball shifted in his arms. At that point, he no longer has control, and therefore no possession. As he is tackled, the ball comes out completely as he hits the ground, but during this time, he does not stabilize the ball. As he never had possession of the ball long enough, it is an incomplete pass. If he had established possession, because he started to lose control before he made contact with the ground, it would have been a fumble. That is how I saw it.

It is unfortunate that the CBC broadcasters Mark Lee and Chris Cuthbert Walby are so uneducated that they cannot even offer this as an explanation through all their reviews of the play. Instead, they could only offer the opinion it was for sure a catch, and when the review upheld the on-field call of an incomplete pass launch into a tirade against Jake Ireland how it was a blown call. I think that broadcasters should at least try to understand why an official has made a decision in review as opposed to dragging down the CFL in a narrow-minded attack on officiating. That could have provided viewers with an opposing viewpoint rather than enforcing the opinion it was a catch because the broadcasters said it was.

Ron Lancaster had an experience in the Hamilton-B.C. game where he challenged what appeared to be a fumble by a Lion in which the play was blown dead. When it was reviewed and the on-field call was upheld, Lancaster tried to challenge the challenge. No explanation for that call has been given that I have read, but because the play was blown dead, even though Hamilton had the ball, it was not likely they could reverse the decision and award Hamilton the ball since the play had not come to a logical conclusion. Reversing the call could have caused a much greater controversy.

It seems that replay assisted calls have done nothing to help the league avoid the slings and arrows of bad calls. As Ted Hellard stated, the concern is the CFL brand taking a hit because the perception creeps in that it is poorly officiated. The CFL first thing to address is the communication issue on reviewed calls and have officials explain exactly why they came to their decision to overturn or uphold a call. Simply stating their is no evidence to overturn the call provides fans with no information as to what rules came into play and leaves them as ignorant as before about the rules of the CFL.

CFL Notes

Molson Stadium jumps first hurdle toward expansion.

Good to hear Milson Jones is doing better. Usually only the bad news makes the headlines, and what happens afterwards is unknown to the public.

So far this year, Ricky Williams has nailed the differences between the NFL and CFL accurately. His latest thought calls the NFL more tabloid than sport. Edmonton Sun reporter Jonathon Huntington doesn’t like Williams’ views on the value of the running game in the CFL, however.

The Crazy Football League has been back at it the last few weeks, with crazy finishes in Regina the last two weeks. Saturday’s last play antics by the Roughriders shows the excitement this league can provide right down to the last play. Slammers of the league should take notice, and note the 32,000+ in the stands at Rogers Centre in Toronto. The league is more popular than you think, and rightfully so.


Besides the potential owners wanting to enrich themselves, fans and media who want a NFL team in Toronto express different sentiments. Media often express that Toronto deserves an NFL franchise and it would be very successful there. Just as Vancouver deserved the Olympic Winter games, which no matter its success will not pay for itself. I hope they get all they deserve. Fans that will likely never be able to afford a ticket, and may only be able to attend a game by receiving tickets for corporate sponsors, want a home team in the league they can root for. After years of struggling with non-identifiable players will apathy creep in like with the Toronto Blue Jays whose average attendance is now sub-30,000 (funny how no media reports state that the stadium is half-full for Blue Jay games, but they continue to push the idea that a dozen people show up for Argo games). The supposed ticket base, the corporate sponsors and executives who will pay up to $1500 per ticket, will enjoy their few years of rubbing shoulders with the big-wigs and taking in all of what they have only seen on TV. Will they still think it is a good investment after the newness has worn off and the buzz has died down? I suspect something newer and shinier will attract their attention. Just a little crumbling in sponsorship, a recession or swing in the dollar would start the downward spiral. Do the people of Toronto really want to be in the middle of building a new stadium when that happens? I think there are a lot more people in Canada and southern Ontario who are wiser to becoming media slaves to the US now than 10-15 years ago. If it did not happen then, I cannot see it happening now. That is the mini-rant for the week.

5 Responses to “Notebook – October 2, 2006”

  1. Jon Says:

    The “Replay Assisted Calls Rear Ugly Head” article was updated to reflect more accurately what happened on Saturday. My memory was shaky of the exact visualization of the event after two days. Apparently Johnson was taken out underneath while in the air, so his feet never hit the ground.

    In addition to the updates in the article, the CFL confirms the Overtime Central position in an Elliotte Friedman article.

  2. Jon Says:

    The CFL’s George Black weighs in officially in an “Ask The Ref” column.

  3. Bill Says:

    I had the toronto-calgary game on but missed bits of it as I headed out to the bar. Sounds like there were some interesting bits. That Burris interception by the D lineman was good :)

    Were Chris Cuthbert and Mark Lee both doing the game? Isn’t Cuthbert at TSN? Or with the 3 games in one day, they suffled people around and didn’t have a real colour guy for the game?

  4. Bill Says:

    and great to hear of milson jones

  5. Jon Says:

    Thanks, Bill. I meant Chris Walby of course on CBC. It has been corrected now.

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