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Glen Suitor

CFL on TSN Analyst

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It is always better to under promise and overachieve. 

Jim Lawson, the head of the search committee to find the person to replace Mark Cohon, promised to have the next commissioner of the CFL in place by May. He and the search committee found their guy before the end of March.

His name is Jeffrey Orridge and, like Cohon, he was a unanimous choice by the Board of Governors. Due to social media today most sports fans will already know his full resume, which is impressive. His most recent job was as the Executive Director, Sports and General Manager, for the CBC. He went to Harvard Law School and in the early ’90s was the Head of Business and Legal Affairs for USA Basketball. He is American born but has been living in Canada for over eight years and has applied for Canadian citizenship. 

His first ever press conference as incoming commissioner was impressive. In it he talked about his love for Canadian football, and how it started at a young age when he and his father would watch Warren Moon play in Edmonton. In his opening remarks he was quick to say that he had been a fan of the league for some time. 

“I have been a fan of it for decades, and not just because of how exciting the game is, or how amazing these athletes that play the game are, it’s really to me what the CFL represented, and it represented Canada,” Orridge said. 

It was opening statements you have to believe will help to defuse concerns some might have about the Canadian Football League hiring an American-born commissioner.  

But Orridge who becomes the 13th commissioner in CFL history, wasn’t done there, he elaborated on his statement by explaining his theory as to why the CFL represents what Canada is all about saying, “Just like Canada the CFL was open, it was engaging, it was welcoming, it was fair, it was a true meritocracy where, if you were qualified you could play, if you were capable you could play any position and you could compete.” 

His statements were scripted but certainly sounded sincere and he sounds like a fan of the game for all the right reasons. The fans and their relationship with the league. The athletes, the excitement level, and the games place in our countries history. 

None of that guarantees success, but it was a good start and if first impressions are the most important than Jeffery Orridge is off to a great start. He doesn’t officially move into the office until the end of April and his first order of business will be resolving the issues in Toronto.

However, at the press conference to introduce the new commissioner Jim Lawson was asked about the Argo’s situation and gave a cryptic but positive answer, saying, “What I can say on that is discussions are ongoing, and I would prefer not to comment where there at. The good news is I would prefer not to comment on where there at so that means they are alive and moving along. I’m participating in the discussions and I think that’s all that can be said at this time.”

If you read between the lines it sounds like there is at least a chance that the Toronto to BMO Field issue will be resolved before Orridge takes over or shortly after his tenure begins.

For most of the CFL football fans in the country the immediate question is what does the new commissioner have to do to become a success story? 

Many will talk about the big ticket items like expansion to the Maritimes, however, maybe it isn’t the major projects that should be the focus. Over the short term, maybe just simply strengthening the brand, and filling stadiums should be the priority. Perhaps finding new and innovative ways to engage the fans through social media, will be time consuming enough for the new league boss and may just be more important right now than a 10th franchise. One could also make the argument that improving all aspects of the football operations of the league and how it is presented by all the stake holders should be high on the agenda.  

Time will tell whether or not Jeffery Orridge can lead the league to the next level, but if his opening presser was any indication he sounds well equipped to handle the unique challenges involved with running the CFL. As he mentioned on Tuesday he has a great opportunity because as he said it, “This is a tremendous brand and a growing business. The league’s rich traditions, fantastic fans, amazing athletes, phenomenal partners, really have us poised to not only have long term sustainability, but unprecedented growth in the future.”   

That success may just depend on the former Harvard Law student keeping it simple, building on what has been accomplished over the last ten years and using a similar approach to that of the search committee who found him.

Under promise and overachieve.