The Rouge: Should the CFL switch to a one-division format?

Ben Fisher,
10/9/2012 7:19:27 PM
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The Edmonton Eskimos scored the last 15 points to defeat the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on Friday night, keeping pace in the competitive West Division and, perhaps more importantly, taking control of the crossover spot with just four games left on the schedule.

The Eskimos, last in the West, sit two games behind the Calgary Stampeders and Saskatchewan Roughriders at 6-8, but are currently a playoff team by virtue of the crossover – Edmonton is one game up on those same Tiger-Cats, who sit third in the East at 5-9.

Should Edmonton hold on and play their first playoff game somewhere east of Saskatchewan, it would be the first time the crossover was utilized since 2009, when the BC Lions travelled east to Hamilton. The year before Edmonton took advantage of the crossover, opening their post-season in Winnipeg.

Every CFL fan knows the crossover, while not exactly common, is far from a rare occurrence. It's a rule implemented with the goal of getting the best six teams into the post-season, but even still, that doesn't always work out.

Edmonton, should they not be able to catch the rest of the West, needs one more win than the Ticats – or whichever team ends up third in the East – to reach the playoffs. It's not a tiebreaker situation. Even had they won the season series against Hamilton, it wouldn't be enough to clinch the third spot allotted to the East. They have to win it outright.

The obvious solution, and the one most contemplated among followers of the league, is to switch to one, eight-team division (a misnomer, I know).

The one division idea isn't a new one, but heading into the regular season's final stretch, in a year like this, it deserves to be re-examined.

Without an East-West split, the playoff race would be clean and simple: the top six teams advance to the playoffs; the top two receive byes.

If that were the case this year, the race for the final playoff spot between the Eskimos and Ticats, who split their season series, could be more interesting, and would be more honest.

Of course, a switch to a one-division system could threaten the strength of some long-standing rivalries. With a level schedule, hated "division" rivals wouldn't face off as often. That isn't to say the schedule-makers would shuffle the always anticipated Labour Day Classic games, or eliminate the Banjo Bowl, but a more even schedule would impede territorial rivalries from cultivating hard feelings over the course of an extended season series.

Nearly every professional sports league opts for divisions, but because of its small size, the CFL has the opportunity to at least consider a different option.

The traditional East-West Division format with the crossover possibility; or an arguably simpler and fairer division-less arrangement. The Rouge asks: Should the CFL switch to a one-division format?

As always, it's Your! Call.

Marcus Henry (Photo: The Canadian Press)


(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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