A new year means we are all allowed a fresh start and we can say the same for football. There are changes on the horizon in the CFL with the upcoming CBA negotiations, USports is always changing, as is junior and high school football.
With the theme of New Year’s resolutions, here are 10 changes we would like to see in football in Canada.
1. HEADSHOTS: The CFL has to change its head contact rule. There was a myriad of hits on CFL quarterbacks over the season. A few stand out: Travis Lulay had his head taken off by the Redblacks in week 13, Mike Reilly had shots to the head in back-to-back weeks, the Riders had both Zach Collaros and Brandon Bridge took vicious head shots at the end of the season and in the playoffs. Miraculously there were no calls on any of those plays!
This needs to continue into the 2019 season and shouldn’t be just for quarterbacks. The CFL should adopt the NCAA rule that when there is illegal contact to the head at any time, the replay official takes a look at it. It doesn’t matter if the on-field officials make the call or not.
If the call is missed, the off-field official buzzes down saying the play is being reviewed and will judge if the play is just a 15-yard penalty or if it should be both the penalty and an ejection from the game. If the ejection comes in the second half, the player will miss that and then the first half of the next game.
This one is by far and away the number one wish for the safety of the players. This rule should also apply to USports where there are many hits to the head that are missed during the season.
2. REVISIT THE COACHES CAP: Adjust the new football operations cash and employee cap in the CFL. This rule doesn’t hurt the top half of the operations staff (though many did take cuts) but this hurts the chances for new coaches and staff to enter the CFL.
There are not many paid opportunities for potential Canadian coaches in Canada to begin with. USports usually has their head coach and maybe both coordinators on full-paid staff. Others receive honorariums. Not a single junior or high school coach in the country are paid for solely being a coach.
There should be one or two paid year-long internships that are just for Canadian coaches and that doesn’t count towards the operations cap.
Football Canada does a great job at developing coaches at the grass-roots level and there are a few outliers across the country as well. But those are the ones that love the game and want to keep developing at the high school, junior or USports level. The opportunity to develop at the pro level has never been good at the CFL level and should change.
3. SPLIT THE SIDELINES: This one is for the East Division CFL teams --> please move the teams to opposite sidelines. It looks terrible on TV with that mess on one sideline, there will be a fight sometime in the near future because of having both teams on the same sideline and it’s just doesn’t feel right.
The only reason why both teams are on one sideline is to have a full ribbon-board stretch across the field for advertising revenue -- that’s it.
There is enough room on both sidelines at all four East Division stadiums to make the switch. The Riders stayed with the traditional opposite sidelines in their new stadium, so East Division teams please make this change.
Yet take a player like UBC defensive back Stavros Katsantonis. He hails from Bakersfield, California and just finished his fourth season with the Thunderbirds. If Katsantonis plays a fifth and final season with UBC, he is still not considered a Canadian (sorry, 'national'), even after playing five seasons of USports football. This is incredibly silly. If a Canadian institution takes a chance on an American and that player stays three or more years at that school, he should automatically be made a national.
This will help both the CFL and USports level of football.
5. DUMP THE HUGE STADIUMS: If possible, move any USport or junior football team out of CFL stadiums. On campus or not, a cozier setting makes for a more welcoming and better atmosphere for fans.
6. MORE USPORTS FOOTBALL ON TV: We need more buy-in by national broadcasters for USports football. Seeing the Vanier Cup relegated to the SportsNet hinterlands was terrible. The league is great and there needs to be a better push to get more games seen on a national level on either or both networks.
7. GET IN THE GYM!: Get high school kids (this doesn’t count just for football, but all sports for young men and women) into the weight room sooner and more often.
Yes, we know this would cost a ton of money, this is more pie-in-the-sky thinking. Money should first be put into education.
9. HAVE MONEY? TRAVEL 2.: In the spirit of number eight, let’s see what happened if junior teams played the top CGEP teams. They are both close to the same age group and it would be incredibly entertaining football.
10. MORE MEDIA COVERAGE: With the push from broadcast TV to online, the local broadcasters (Global, CTV and CBC) have all but gutted their sports departments. There was a time when all three had daily or weekly local sports broadcasts.
We are not asking for that, but how about some online content. Not just the usual athlete of the week or the token university or junior story, but a whole-hearted fully local sports program. What’s the worst that can happen…success?
Zach Wilkinson (Sr) - Guard
Hometown – Vancouver, B.C.
High School – Mount Douglas Secondary
Not really one to watch over the last week of the college season, but Wilkinson is one to watch as the CFL draft is on the horizon. He was one of the top ranked players in the December CFL scouting bureau rankings.
Wilkinson started all 11 games for the Bears earning Big-Sky all-conference honourable mention in the process. He was granted a medical redshirt fifth season for 2018 after being injured in the second game of the 2017 season.