Behind the scenes: Ken Derrett being discussed as potential CFL commissioner candidate

Photo courtesy: The San Diego Foundation

Football teams are always searching for their next big superstar and the same is true for the Canadian Football League.

The commissioner is the face of the three-down circuit from coast to coast and Randy Ambrosie has filled the role since July 2017. If the board of governors decided to move on and select a new commish, one name that’s been discussed behind the scenes is Ken Derrett, according to multiple league sources.

The Winnipeg native attended Laurentian University located in Sudbury, Ontario where he earned a bachelor of commerce in sports administration. In 2008, he received an honorary doctorate in sports administration from Laurentian and, in 2010, he was acknowledged as one of 50 distinguished graduates.

His first job in pro sports was director of administration with the CFL from 1978 to 1988. He developed the annual business and operations plan for the Grey Cup. It’s a position that helped Derrett understand the ins and outs of the league.

Derrett left the league office to work for Labatt as the manager of sport and entertainment properties. He managed Labatt’s partnerships with the NFL, Toronto Blue Jays, Canadian Olympic Association, Hockey Canada, Canadian Curling Association and the Commonwealth Games. In addition, he oversaw several strategic relationships for the company including SkyDome (now known as Rogers Centre), TSN and the Canadian Country Music Association.

He was sought by NBA Canada and hired as managing director in 1995. David Stern took notice and brought Derrett into the association’s main office as senior vice president of global marketing partnerships. That’s where he crossed paths with former CFL commissioner Mark Cohon who was vice president of business development, managing director of NBA Europe and director of international marketing for part of the time Derrett was there.

Chargers chief executive officer Dean Spanos tabbed Derrett to be vice president, chief marketing officer in 2001, earning the senior designation nine years later. He was responsible for all of the team’s marketing and sales functions. During his tenure, the Chargers experienced significant growth in premium seat sales, sponsorships and broadcast revenue and merchandise sales.

Currently, Derrett is on the board of directors for The San Diego Foundation and is a marketing committee member for the 2021 US Open golf major championship — he’s been involved with the tournament in prior years.

Derrett has unique experience, provides a Canadian birth certificate and would be an intriguing candidate for commissioner of the CFL. In order to entice coveted people, the league owners need to cede control and allow proper autonomy for the commish, similar to how the NHL, NBA and NFL operate. The most successful leagues have had an unquestioned leadership and many inside the CFL believe the lack of power is holding the league back.

Justin Dunk is a football insider, sports reporter and anchor.