Riders’ bench boss hopes the CFL’s football operations cuts are ‘just a one-year deal’

Photo Scott Grant / CFLPhotoArchive.com
Photo courtesy: Scott Grant/CFLPhotoArchive.com

Saskatchewan Roughriders head coach Craig Dickenson doesn’t want to see the cuts last long.

The Canadian Football League and commissioner Randy Ambrosie mandated an over $500,000 reduction to the football operations cap which limits the salaries for coaches, scouts, video and equipment staff.

“Hopefully this is just a one-year deal, I’m very hopeful that it’s just a short-term answer for a short-term problem and that once we get butts in the seats, and we get people to the games, we’ll be able to increase the number of coaches and increase the football ops cap and start developing coaches,” Dickenson said.

The 48-year-old Riders’ bench boss elected not to let any coaches go from his group, so collectively the staff slashed their pay by between 10 to 15 percent. 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 trimmed it 20 percent to $2,070,400 — which combined saves franchises over 4.5 million.

“Our coaches know that when Craig Reynolds and Jeremy O’Day visit with me and tell me that we’ve gotta tighten our belts because things are getting tough, that’s something we don’t question because we trust them and we believe in what they say,” Dickenson said.

“I had some difficult conversations with them about a month ago when those first round of pay cuts came through and they understand. Our coaches were very good about sacrificing and doing what they needed to do to make sure that the organization can survive and make sure that the league can survive.”

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. 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.

“All of us got our start in this league somehow, someway. I’m not a huge fan of a league mandated cap where the league tells you what you have to spend. That being said, I work in the CFL, I work for the Saskatchewan Roughriders and there’s a lot of things out of our control and we do what we’re told,” Dickenson said.

Dickenson hired Jason Maas as his offensive coordinator in the off-season while extending the contract of defensive play-caller Jason Shivers and Kent Maugeri will help with special teams. Offensive line coach Stephen Sorrells, running backs coach Tim Prinsen, receivers coach Travis Moore, defensive line coach Ben Olson, linebackers coach Deion Melvin and defensive backs coach Richard Kent all have extensive coaching experience.

Offensive assistant Josh Lambert is the youngest coach on staff. Lambert previously worked for Saskatchewan in the video, research and development department from 2015 to 2018. He does have more than 15 years of coaching experience at the U Sports level.

“You gotta have experience when you’re putting together a staff, so when it comes down to do you hire a guy whose got 10 years experience in the league, or do you hire this young guy you think could really be a really good coach, and maybe be a future star so to speak, unfortunately you end up hiring the guy with experience because you just don’t have a lot of people to draw from,” Dickenson said.

“The thing that’s tricky about when you start cutting salaries and you start mandating how many coaches you can have, you lose the ability to find the next really good coaches. That’s going to be the challenge.”