League commissioner Mark Cohon told SUN TV's Casino Rama Grill Room last night that the league of loosening the import rule for the Ottawa Rough Riders begin play. The gist of what he told host Gareth Wheeler was that, "we need to ensure that team can become competitive quickly, and one thing we would look at doing is letting them have a few more Americans when Ottawa comes back into the league in 2012."
It is not the big CFL story of the past couple days, but it sounds promising. The rank-and-file fans whose support will make or break the Reconstituteds (as they shall henceforth be known until it's official they'll be the Rough Riders) likely won't care too much. They're more about Ws than whether the Will linebacker grew up in Waterloo or Walla Walla.
What Cohon said is worth passing on for posterity's sake. The current import ratio is 21-18-3 (Canadians, imports and quarterbacks, who are stateless in the CFL's eyes). There's a risk in crediting it for the emergence of ratio-busters (Canadians who play positions traditionally earmarked for Americans) such as the B.C. Lions receiver Paris Jackson, Edmonton running backs Jesse Lumsden and Calvin McCarty and Kingston native Brent Johnson, who plays defensive end for B.C.
Those players can be few and far between and the eight established clubs will not be eager to part with them via an expansion draft. Tweaking the import ratio to 25-14, maybe for Ottawa's first 2-3 seasons, might help with their efforts. It has been noted previously (April 24, 2009) that putting a team that plays good football on the field will be Job One in Ottawa. The league has had two re-launches within the past 15 years, first in Montréal in 1996 and then Ottawa in 2002. One succeeded beyond everyone's wildest dreams, the other did not.
"Montréal got an established team ... which was competitive right off the hop. The terms of the expansion draft should reflect that the overall growth of an underdog league trumps Edmonton or Winnipeg's depth chart. There is no obvious, less direct way to break that to Westerners. The league also said in 2006 it would "place an emphasis on assisting Ottawa to field a competitive team upon its return."Again, we'll see how this holds up once Ottawa rejoins the league. CFL owners' generosity only extends to far (propping up a struggling Southern Ontario franchise, good, letting the new kids on the block raid your roster, bad).
It is at least something worth pursuing. The point will remain the same, though, the terms of the expansion draft are going to have to be more generous than they were the last time around. It is one thing to let the Reconstituteds dress a few more Americans, but if they're all rookies or newcomers to the Canadian game, it would be self-defeating.