Riders’ head coach Craig Dickenson ‘nobody happy to hear about’ football operations cuts

Photo courtesy: Justin Dunk

Saskatchewan Roughriders head coach Craig Dickenson isn’t a fan of cutting the football operations salaries.

Commissioner Randy Ambrosie mandated the reduction without any consultation from general managers, scouts or coaches around the league.

“Well, nobody is happy to hear about that, but the reality is we all know what’s ahead of us. We have a challenging road with COVID. We’re still all very much optimistic we can have a season this year, but we know that it’s going to be tough sledding for the next few years to try to make up for some of the revenue that we’ve lost already,” Dickenson said on Growing the Game with Ballsy.

“The leadership in Saskatchewan with Craig Reynolds at the top and then Jeremy O’Day, one thing you know with those guys is when they say, ‘Hey fellas, we gotta tighten our belts up a little bit to get by, you don’t question that because they’re good people, they’re honest, and we trust them.”

In December 2018, the CFL laid out the details for the non-player costs that were implemented for the 2019 season and stated it would be reviewed after the 2020 campaign. Originally, the football ops cap was set at just under $2.59 million, however, according to 3DownNation insider Justin Dunk, the league wants to trim 20 percent — the equivalent of over $500,000 per team — which combined could save franchises 4.5 million.

“When news comes down from above that there’s going to be some belt-tightening, the coaches for the most part are very understanding and know that it wouldn’t be happening if it wasn’t necessary,” Dickenson said.

“When Jeremy and I get back into the office next week, that’s one of our first and really one of our priorities is to look at that and see how it effects us. Coaches I’ve talked to have all been good, they understand that these are tough times.”

General managers, coaches, scouts, equipment people and video personnel count under the cap. Teams are limited to coaching staffs of 11 and 14 other football operations individuals, totalling 25. The non-player football operations cap was driven by Ambrosie and league’s executive council, consisting of the nine team presidents, with the board of governors approval.

“The hardest part as a head coach is not necessarily hiring your coordinators, it’s who is going to be the next coordinator when Jason Maas takes a head coaching job or Jason Shivers takes a head coaching job, who is the next guy in line?” Dickenson questioned.

“If you don’t have good young coaches, you’ll see a drop off in some of the coaching at that point. Hopefully the league understands that and hopefully this is just a temporary thing and not something that we can expect down the road.”

Capping the football operations budget was designed to improve the financial bottom line for clubs, it’s a way for teams to control costs and level the playing field. Although, the talent evaluators and developers were already subjected to a pay cut once and the second one could deplete the quality of play even more and the 48-year-old Riders’ bench boss agreed.

“Good management is big-time too. Usually if you’ve got good management and good leadership at the top, they’re usually pretty smart about who they hire as coaches,” Dickenson said.

“I do think you’re going to see, unfortunately, good, young coaches, leave. You’re going to lose coaches like that, coaches will have job offers down in the States that will pay them more than we can pay them.”