Five good things Jeffrey Orridge did as commissioner of the CFL

Jeffrey Orridge’s run as CFL commissioner came to an abrupt end when he and the board of governors agreed to mutually part ways on Wednesday.

Plenty has been said about Orridge’s time on the job, and a lot of it is about the mistakes he made in his two years as commissioner. But that is only telling half the story. Orridge accomplished many good things that pushed the league into the 21st century in his short time as the CFL boss and those are the things I want to highlight.

Before we start, I know that the commissioner is not solely responsible for all of the things I am about to outline, but if Orridge is going to get the blame for things that happened during his tenure that he can’t control, like declining ratings and on-field issues (ex. officiating errors), then he also gets the credit for the good things that occurred even if he might not have been the man to push for them.

First and foremost, he got the Argos out of the Rogers Centre and into BMO Field. While what followed hasn’t been the magic elixir many thought it would be, I cannot stress how important it was for the Argos to find a home outside the former SkyDome. The Toronto problem still exists — and it existed long before Orridge took power, may I remind you — but the move to BMO is still, in my opinion, a step in the right direction for that franchise. He gave them the one thing they desperately needed, now it is up to Argos ownership to make this venture successful.

Secondly, the partnership last year with Draft Kings was a stroke of genius and really helped elevate the league. Fantasy sports, and gambling in general, is one of the main reasons why the NFL is the juggernaut that it is. The CFL will never get to that level, but having a fantasy game that people can gamble on was a major coup for the league.

Thirdly, while many will talk about what Orridge was not, namely Mark Cohon, his embracing of new media, be it Twitter or the quickly emerging CFL podcast scene, shows that Orridge was looking to the future. How many professional sports commissioners do you know that have been a guest on fan-run podcasts? Orridge did that on more than one occasion and did it gladly.

Fourthly, with CFL ratings down, the league experimented with live-mic games last year and they seemed to be a hit with ratings increasing almost 20 percent compared to non-live-mic games. Whether or not the live mics added anything is up to the individual, the concept was clearly intriguing enough for more people to tune in to see what the fuss was about.

Lastly, but certainly not least, was the creation of CFL Week. While might not have registered as much outside Regina as it did inside Regina, it was a hit in almost every other conceivable way. It granted the access to players that many in the media have been complaining about the last few years, and it did so in a fun, stress-free environment. It was a great concept and one that garnered the league plenty of positive press during a time when there is very little in the way of CFL news.

Jeffrey Orridge’s tenure as CFL commissioner wasn’t perfect. Far from it, in fact. But when he leaves office on June 30, he will have done so having made many positive steps forward for the league.

His successor won’t have quite as big of shoes to fill as Orridge did, but that doesn’t mean the league’s 13th commissioner didn’t accomplish some pretty amazing things in his own right.

Josh Smith

Josh Smith

Josh has been writing about the Ticats and the CFL since 2010 and was sporting his beard way before it was cool. Will be long after, too.
Josh Smith
Josh Smith
About Josh Smith (362 Articles)
Josh has been writing about the Ticats and the CFL since 2010 and was sporting his beard way before it was cool. Will be long after, too.

24 Comments on Five good things Jeffrey Orridge did as commissioner of the CFL

  1. If mic’d games & CFL Week are his legacies then sorry he didn’t do much. TV ratings still down, let Glen Johnson run amok with rule changes that hurt the game on the field & in the living rooms of the nation because he didn’t understand the game. He reminded me of the executive who never spoke to his employees because all he did was close the door to his office all day long never interacting with anyone. Major disconnect with fans from Day 1.

    • Christopher // April 15, 2017 at 1:09 pm //

      The Commissioners job is not to be connected with fans… it is to run the league efficiently… and that he did… If you want a highly paid Super fan or a CFL mascot… that can be done a hell of a lot cheaper… Cohon was useless but he interacted with the fans and they loved it… but because Orridge actually did work… that the fans cannot see or touch… they are screaming that he is no good… if you want a drinking buddy… find your own.

      • Puck Hog // April 15, 2017 at 7:01 pm //

        “Christopher”. A pseudonym for Orridge. Or a close relative. Orridge was a dud, in over his head. He has screwed up everywhere he has worked. He smoke-screened the league, and they hired him. This job was beyond his abilities. It did t take the board long to figure out they made a mistake.

        • Billinburlington // April 16, 2017 at 1:16 am //

          What specific examples of “screw-ups” lead you to conclude he was over his head?

          • Imo, he was just another BSer who told everyone who would listen how smart he was. He told us he was “Very familiar” with the CFL and CANADA because he had relatives that lived in Toronto. Really???!!!
            Under his watch with CBC, they lost the rights to FIFA , failed to win back the CFL rights, and he totally muddled CBC’s relationship with the NHL which had broadcast in Canada for over 69 years prior to Orridge’s handling of the negototiations. By all accounts, this did not have to happen.
            Really, he did precious little during his tenure in the CFL, although he told everyone he was going to perpetuate the league. Well, the league was around for 100 years before Orridge, and it is still around in spite of him. GOOD RIDDANCE!

  2. Christopher // April 15, 2017 at 1:06 pm //

    Josh Smith… I think you missed a few things that Orridge did have his fingerprints all over… here is my list

    1) CFL week
    2) revamped the combines
    3) Created a drug policy with teeth
    4) Established a relationship with EA Games
    5) Started a joint training program with NFL for the officials
    6) Created policy to prevent pillaging of management personnel
    7) Brokered the sale of the Toronto Argonaut
    8) Helped secure the rights to BMO field
    9) Finally stood up to teams that were cheating
    10) Rebranded the league for the younger more hip crowd
    11) created a uniform website template for all teams
    12) brought the league into the 21st century with social media
    13) Create the duo of Sanchez and Cybulski… Live and the Waggle.
    14) Partnership with Draft Kings.

    • Puck Hog // April 15, 2017 at 7:08 pm //

      What have you been smoking? Orridge was pathetic! Rebranded the league? What? By suggesting the use of social media – now that’s original! Pillaging personnel – there was already a mechanism in place – don’t meddle unless given permission by the contractual team. Period. But Then Orridge sas he has to have the final say – brilliant – Let the clueless guy decide. OMG!

    • Billinburlington // April 16, 2017 at 1:10 am //

      Good points of view Josh and Christopher. Darrell Davis wrote an insightful item for 3downnation about CFL Commissioners set up for failure. Davis argued the role of Commish is -and this is my interpretation – akin to hearding cats… many bosses each with their own agenda. Result: high turnover. Your respective lists of accomplishments is notable given the tough- if not impossible- job Mr Orridge had. I wish him all the best in his future endeavours. Good luck to the next one… he/she will need it.

    • Darrell Pomarenski // April 16, 2017 at 11:18 am //

      Created a drug policy with teeth. He got rid of the drug testing agency that was doing the testing. Then after a full year of ZERO testing, he had to go crawling back. Created a policy for the pill aging of management personal. He did that after the barn door was left open.

  3. You’re giving him credit for the Argos move to BMO?!?
    Give me a break.

  4. Good article. Far from perfect, as noted, but in this era of ten second sound bites of ‘good’ or ‘bad’, it’s nice to see someone slow down and give it some thought.

  5. Ron Bates // April 15, 2017 at 6:10 pm //

    Yup too bad he didn’t make it to and other two years but he did add years to the eight Marc Cohon delivered. So now we wait.

  6. league is handicapped by TSN buying the Argos. Won’t be able to truly negotiate a new TV deal with say a rival competitor aka Sportsnet for risk of Bell giving up on the Argos.

    But to be fair this is the only league where a major sports broadcaster either discredits it or ignores it altogether b/c they don’t have a stake in it.

  7. Bottom line is ANY COMMISSIONER needs to be the BOSS. In many way the job is just a finger head position. A title with no little control over the league in many ways. With the teams help REVENUE needs to maxed out to the hilt. Filling the empty seats in all the stadiums is a good start to making the league a MONEY MACHINE which solves a multitude of problems thru out the league.

  8. Stephen Fisher // April 15, 2017 at 10:16 pm //

    But how can you fill seats at BMO when for evening games fans in east side seats can’t see a thing with the sun in their eyes? at least they’re smart enough to put TV cameras on that side so they face west side seats where at least there are some fans.

  9. Lots of strong opinions here for sure we all love the CFL & we all know the league must get better. My recommended course of action for new Commish;
    1. A popular or legend must get the position. Instant credibility. Pinball?
    2. The CFL must aggre$$ively market itself with Millenials coast to coast & ESPN matches promoted in USA.
    3. Salary cap to immediately grow by 25% then 5% yearly afterward to attract talent & make games more attractive to young Cdns who otherwise turn their backs on CFL because were always told that NFL better. Up to 2 players can earn $750K+
    4. Rule changes to make game more fluid. Same for officials; let the game be played.
    5. More bilateral ties with NFL; who knows what positives may arise.
    6. A canadian magazine published two weeks before each season for fantasy pool purposes.

    • weberpop // April 16, 2017 at 3:37 pm //

      1. Other than optics, I don’t think it matters who it is.
      2. Games shown on ESPN tv (not just streamed only) are just fillers during the summer. You do realize that those ESPN games are almost all the weekday ones which people complain about.
      3. Good luck finding that much more revenue to cover that + getting the owners to agree to such an increase.
      4. That is another issue with the CFL. Everybody wants it faster, faster, and even more faster game play. Yet, people also complain of subpar play, mistakes, and/or too many penalties.
      5. Likely makes no difference.
      6. Do people even buy printed magazines anymore?

      My point is not to be negative to your suggestions but to point out that the CFL Commissioner’s position is one where you almost can’t win.

      • CFLRheal // April 16, 2017 at 4:51 pm //

        Thank you for your feedback. Inside of me I kinda remain concerned about the declining future in popularity of the CFL with Canadian Millenials – who were brainwashed into thinking there’s only the NFL out there.

    • This … especially #3. The CFL is perceived as minor league because it pays minor league salaries. The public sees averages and think everyone’s paid subsistence money and that QB’s make $500K and other stars around $200K never gets publicized and it’s too low.

      Reilly and Mitchell both need to be over the million dollar mark and the star position players like Solly, Bowman, Harris, etc should all be at least at he $500K mark.

      Agree to #1, Pinball would be a great choice.

      One last thing is that a console game is an absolute must for the CFL. They stop looking at trying to make money from licensing it and think about the marketing value alone.

      • CFLRheal // April 18, 2017 at 6:02 am //

        Couldn’t agree more. The #CFL is a pro league with pro players so the next commisioner needs to focus on marketing the league as a pro league. The message to the Millenials (young male/female adults 18-30 yo who think that NFL is only football league)should be that CFL is a pro league and it is played here in Canada and that go to a game, the tickets will be priced right for a great game. Then to ensure this some rules must be reviewed and the game needs to flow better, w/o refs whistling everything.
        My $0.02

  10. Darrell Pomarenski // April 16, 2017 at 11:12 am //

    A nice move to get Draft Kings on board. But how long will that last, when teams won’t let the publiuc know about injuries. The non disclosure is a major problem with the people laying down money. The NFL has rules governing the reporting of injuries, so fans can make an informed decision. Until that time, the general public is playing blind.

  11. weberpop // April 16, 2017 at 3:15 pm //

    Problem with the CFL is not the commissioner. Whether we like it or not, the league is only a niche product that will always have difficulty growing. In fact, the goal is closer to survival rather than expanding.

    Not all, but many CFL fans are snobs in that the league should only try to appeal to a certain demographic. With the league’s salaries are so low that many of the players must work in the off-season, fans of the CFL should embrace any attempt to grow the game.

  12. Puck Hog // April 16, 2017 at 5:19 pm //

    In spite of all the negative comments on here, the CFL is an excellent product with a huge following. It doesn’t hurt to engage the so-called millenials, but I wonder if that is more of a problem in the larger centres like Toronto? When I go to games in the West or watch in local pubs, there does seem to be a fair following of younger people. Perhaps, however, not enough?

    • I suspect research is needed.

      I’ve have many boomers, especially in Toronto – who say the NFL is the only pro football league. The more delusional ones are still convinced the Argos are the only barrier to an NFL team in Toronto, despite the NFL commissioner at the time saying “not in my lifetime”.

      As for “money solves everything” – the question is where the money comes from.

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