Commissioner Randy Ambrosie is allowing the country to weigh in from coast to coast and could decide to alter the CFL playoff format as soon as the 2020 season.
The new post-season idea would see the East and West Division winners earn first-round byes. After the first two teams, the next four would make the playoffs based purely on record. Three would host six and four match up against five in the opening round.
The semi-final games would be played on Saturday and the following Sunday the team who had the best regular season record would choose their opponent for the division final.
“By March 17 I will have criss-crossed the country and had the chance to share what the feedback was from fans and we’ll have seen the reporting on it. Then we’ll take it to the governors and put it on the table for them to consider,” Ambrosie told Canadian Press reporter Dan Ralph.
“We’ll make a decision, I believe, in March on whether we’re going to go forward with it and if so, are we going to go in 2020 or wait until 2021? Really right now what we’re doing is getting an opportunity to get a chance to hear what CFL fans think and give them a role to play in shaping the future of our league.”
It can be tough to ensure playoff balance in a nine-team league, especially in a year when one division — in recent seasons its been the West — is far superior to the other. The crossover rule was implemented to try to maximize meaningful and competitive games down the stretch and to reward the better teams with playoff spots.
“It’s just so interesting because there’d be the fan intrigue of which team is going to be chosen. Because your top-six teams are all getting a shot at the playoffs we think it could actually keep more teams in the playoff hunt longer and create more intrigue,” Ambrosie said.
“Obviously being in fifth place would be better than sixth, being fourth would be better than fifth. We’re thinking it could create more fan engagement and more interest in the later-season games.”
CFL purists often point to the history of the East versus West play downs as a reason to eschew evolution. There are people who believe the CFL has serious problems with its playoff format for a very long time. Ambrosie is at the very least having the conversation which could usher in new unique structure.
“We can announce we’re going to do two seasons of this and see how it works,” Ambrosie said.
“If you state that up front then it allows us to experiment with some new ideas and to see how we combine these new ideas to engage our fans.”