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This article was published 7/9/2014 (2439 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Mark Cohon has been able to strike a lot of things off his to-do list during his stint as commissioner of the Canadian Football League.
And he’s got one more doozy he’d like to get done before stepping aside next spring: get the Toronto Argonauts comfortably set up at BMO Field.
The commish was in Winnipeg Sunday as part of his regular tour of CFL cities. This might be one of his last stops as the boss, however, as he plans to step aside by April 2015.
Cohon touched on a lot of issues/topics during a media session before the Banjo Bowl with the state of the Argos — both their ownership under David Braley and their desire to move from Rogers Centre — front and centre.
"Think about David Braley and what he’s done for this league," said Cohon when asked about reports the Argos are being run as a bare-bones operation while Braley tries to sell the franchise. "I’m confident in his ability with the Argos. We should step back and pause for a minute — they won the Grey Cup two years ago. They were a second half away from going to the Grey Cup last year. So, from the product on the field, they’ve been able to be very competitive on the football side."
Cohon insists the issue in Toronto isn’t about ownership, but the venue. BMO Field, home of the Toronto FC soccert team, is to undergo an expansion and after conversations with Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, Cohon and the CFL are trying to come up with an additional $20 million to help pay for a football-friendly expansion to the facility.
"Right now it boils down to us raising some more money to help MLSE expand the stadium and then getting a long-term lease for the Argos."
Other notes from Cohon’s session:
— Attendance numbers are down, but he hopes they will spike in the second half of the season with more divisional games. The early season numbers were also affected by attention on the World Cup in Brazil.
"We’re starting to see it pick back up," said Cohon. "Now that Hamilton’s in their new stadium, Ottawa is basically performing before sold-out crowds, the attendance in Edmonton (Saturday) was over 40,000 people so in the second half of the season you’re going to see the trend going back up."
— Scoring totals are also down. Dating back through his tenure to the previous commissioner, Tom Wright, CFL games averaged about 51 points per game. That number is down to 45 this season.
Cohon cited the extra designated import on defence this year, three new head coaches in Mike O’Shea (Winnipeg), Chris Jones (Edmonton) and Rick Campbell (Ottawa) with defensive backgrounds and a transition to younger starting quarterbacks, especially in Montreal with the retirement of Anthony Calvillo.
"Obviously, as a fan of the game — whether you are a the commissioner or someone watching it on television — you want to see games that are higher scoring and more fun," Cohon said. "You have to look to see if there are trends... we have some years where the defences are stronger and then years where coaches modify their offences and they’re stronger."
— On reaction to the new signature jerseys by Reebok, which have been received well almost everywhere but in Winnipeg:
"I told my team and I told the board of governors and some of our older fans, we’re not the target audience. The target audience is the teenagers, the 25 year olds who want a fun jersey, a fun look. It’s tip to toes and it’s fun and that’s what we wanted to do. What speaks well, and I don’t know the Bombers number, is I was in Edmonton (Saturday) and they were flying off the shelves. The Riders (jerseys) were flying off the shelves and I know in Toronto they were doing very well. It’s been very positive."
— On the idea of having just one division, with the top six teams making the playoffs, rather than the East-West format:
"There hasn’t been (discussions on it)," said Cohon. "We’ve seen the boys on TSN talk about it, but my email has not been flooded from fans saying they want one division. I haven’t even heard it from Bomber fans since they’ve moved from East to West."