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The Canadian Football League made a brief return to relevancy Thursday when it announced a partial reveal of each team’s negotiation list.
For those of you unaware of what a CFL negotiation list is, it’s a compilation of up to 45 players — mostly current college players or recent graduates of U.S. programs — that each team has "protected." Whichever team has a player on their list, that club has first dibs for their services if the player chooses to explore the CFL.
So, let’s take a minute to reflect on some of the potential names that could head north one day to play with the Blue and Gold.
Do quarterbacks Ian Book from Notre Dame, Charlie Brewer from Baylor, Brock Purdy from Iowa State or Blake Jackson from Mary Hardin-Baylor mean anything to you? What about defensive backs Breon Borders (Duke) and Deatrick Nichols (South Florida) or offensive linemen Wyatt Miller (Central Florida) and Isaiah Williams (Akron)? Perhaps you’ve watched defensive ends John Daka (James Madison) and Sharif Finch (Temple) terrorize opposing quarterbacks sometime over their career.
For the vast majority, these names will not ring a bell — even if a number of the players have intriguing back-stories. Like Book, who is destined to reach the NFL and is projected to be selected as early as the fifth round in next year’s draft. Or Finch, who moved on from Temple University after five seasons to play for the NFL’s Tennessee Titans and Cincinnati Bengals, where he recorded 40 total tackles and 3.5 sacks. He is currently on the L.A. Rams practice roster.
But as great as it was to see the three-down game tiptoe into the now-busy sports landscape, even for a moment, I couldn’t help but wonder why the list was released?
Unless you’ve been hiding out in a safety bunker, you likely know the CFL was one of the few professional sports leagues to abandon a season this year owing to the COVID-19 pandemic. The final straw came in mid-August when the league was unable to secure a $30-million interest-free loan, which ultimately put an end to a 2020 campaign in Bubble City Winnipeg.
CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie has said multiple times over the last few months that the sudden coronavirus outbreak, though certainly not welcomed, invited an opportunity to do business differently. The status quo would no longer work, Ambrosie said, and so an effort was going to be made to do things differently.
I take no pleasure in beating on the CFL, especially while they’re down and out. But could it be any more tone deaf than to send out a sample-size list of players that aren’t even on a CFL team’s roster, which could be changed by tomorrow? Because the negotiation list can — and does — change fairly often, with some of those players revealed on Thursday possibly gone the next day.
That’s not to suggest there isn’t value in taking a peek at a team’s negotiation list. In fact, that’s exactly where the Winnipeg Blue Bombers were able to unearth some major talent, including the likes of quarterback Chris Streveler, wide receivers Janarion Grant and Lucky Whitehead, as well as defensive back Marcus Sayles. Sayles played two seasons in the CFL, helping Winnipeg to a Grey Cup in 2019, before signing with an NFL team.
But if the way moving forward is going to be different from the past — and a good part of that movement will have to be increased transparency — then Thursday’s announcement should have included everyone on the list, not just the few hand-picked by each of the nine CFL teams.
Some will suggest this is a petty request. I respectfully disagree, given some of the splashy names that have appeared on a team’s negotiation list. Remember when Colin Kaepernick was on the Montreal Alouettes’ list? Lamar Jackson, the reigning NFL MVP, used to be on the B.C. Lions’ list.
The reaction I witnessed online after the announcement was a CFL fan base clearly hungry for more content. Releasing a full negotiation list would have been a notable step in the right direction of not only appeasing football-hungry fans but also proof this league plans to do things a different way.
Free tip: make the entire list public, with updates every week to show the changes. That would have more people talking about your product, as well as create a valid reason to visit the league’s website during a time the league is blacked out.
Transparency is also important in attracting new fans. The CFL likes to consider itself the most accessible league in the world, where fans can get up close and personal with players.
So why find ways to shut them out?
More eyeballs looking at your product is a good thing. Moves like the one on Thursday will only make them roll.
After a slew of injuries playing hockey that included breaks to the wrist, arm, and collar bone; a tear of the medial collateral ligament in both knees; as well as a collapsed lung, Jeff figured it was a good idea to take his interest in sports off the ice and in to the classroom.
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