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.