By: RodPedersen.com Staff
With everyone currently either filling out their college basketball bracket, complaining whether their team is in or out of the NHL playoffs or pretending it really is spring by watching baseball from Arizona or Florida, this is the official dead zone for fans of the CFL.
Yes, the Regional Combines are front and centre in three spots across the country but the true awesomeness that is the CFL Combine isn’t until March 24th & 25th in Winnipeg. It’s not all doom and gloom, with the season moving up on the calendar by two weeks, things will start to heat up right away.
The true wish of the CFL is to make it a 365-day a year newsmaker, but it’s incredibly difficult. We here at Out of the Tunnel feel that the best way to fill the gap is to go all-in on the lead up to the CFL Combine and the Draft.
Over the next 10 weeks, we will dig into the lead up to the Combine (heavy on who to watch next week), the results, how to interpret the stats, a look at each draft from 2013-2017 - and how each team fared - a Draft Preview and post analysis and then, finally, a training camp preview.
That’s how RodPedersen.com will fill the football void.
But on a national level, how can the CFL get the fans interested in the future Canadian stars of the CFL?
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With the Combine now just two weeks away, if you chatted with the majority of CFL fans they couldn’t tell you the difference between a Peter Godber and a Boston Rowe.
Other than watching your region’s USports conference, reading the few player spotlights the CFL website offers (which is heavy on eastern teams) and catching a NCAA bowl game that has a Canadian player in it, there isn’t much information on these athletes.
Traditional media outlets are still in cutting mode so don’t expect anything there. Newspapers and television stations have gutted their sports departments and are spread so thin the combine is low on the priority level.
USports is deep in the championship season, so don’t expect much help there either.
The CFL is taking steps at the Combine to try to make it palatable for fans to watch. They are streaming the testing and some of the one-on-one drills.
But, the top three ranked players in the upcoming CFL draft will not participate. Offensive linemen David Knevel (Nebraska), Trey Rutherford (UConn) and Ryan Hunter (Bowling Green) will all use their school’s pro-days as a platform to the next level.
It is common place for the top NCAA-Canadians to not participate in the CFL combine and with the opportunity for a player to strut their stuff in front of NFL scouts, you cannot blame them in the least.
If the CFL wants all the top players to attend and make it a true fan event one (very drastic) way to do it is to turn it into an All-Canadian Senior Bowl (for fun let’s call it the Russ Jackson Bowl).
Have the combine testing, four days of game prep and one-on-ones for the scouts (both CFL and NFL scouts would definitely attend) then finish the week with a televised game for the fans (I say for the fans, because at other senior-oriented events in the U.S. you see the scouts leave before the game).
Fans would get a chance to see how a player from the Prairie Football Conference would match up with a player from the Big Ten and a player from the OUA! Can those high-ranked NCAA players adjust to playing the CFL game and with some playing a different position that would fit their skills?
It would also bring a bigger pool of players into the fold. Eighty players would be invited with coaches provided from the East and West Division final losing teams.
Players would arrive Sunday with testing on Monday and Tuesday. Practices would run Wednesday through Friday with a Saturday afternoon game. Throw in CFL governors meetings and CFL Week, it would be one hell of a week of football that would put the league front and centre on the sports landscape.
The first thing would be to kill the East - West Showcase that’s usually in May. This game is for the top USports players eligible for the next year’s draft. It doesn’t include the top NCAA or Canadian Junior players.
Each CFL club pays a lot of money for East - West Showcase, so instead the money could be put towards a true senior event.
Next is probably the most difficult, moving the event to January after finals are over. It would almost make this a Vancouver exclusive event because Rogers Centre is now the only domed CFL stadium.
The other problem with January is that it’s a long way from the CFL draft in May turning the CFL off-season upside down. This could be a blessing in disguise because now there is more time to build up a player’s profile leading up to the draft.
This would be a BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal) for the CFL, but it would be an incredible step to making the CFL a true year-round sport!
We can dream, can’t we?