Monday Mailbag: revised 2021 CFL schedule, player compensation in 2020, Canadian amateur football

The 3DownNation Monday Mailbag answers questions from readers across the country every week.

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We’ve answered a handful of questions below. If your question didn’t get picked, don’t panic — we’ll save it to potentially answer here next week or on the 3DownNation Podcast.

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When does the revised CFL schedule come out or is it starting at Week 9? The CFL left this part out of its announcement.

-Lance Whittaker

Thanks for the question, Lance.

The CFL will be making an entirely new fourteen-game schedule for 2021. The old one is now considered null and void.

Look for more games at the start of the season to be played in B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba where restrictions will likely be looser than they are in Ontario and Quebec. That’s good news if you’re a football fan in Western Canada who wants to see some live football this summer.

There’s still no guarantee that games will go ahead in 2021, but I feel confident that we’ll see decent crowds in a lot of cities. The federal government has already said that restrictions could be lifted if we reach a vaccination threshold of 75 percent, while Alberta could remove capacity restrictions by late July.

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Were there any 2020 signing bonuses given out before the season got cancelled? If so, did they get taken back because there was no season?

Did the players get paid and didn’t play? Did they get some get paid with CERB? Just wondering about this — it never gets brought up in the media at all.

-Blair Romas

Thanks for the question, Blair.

All players who received off-season bonuses got to keep them in full. Once a signing bonus or off-season roster bonus is paid, they are permanent regardless of whether the player reports to training camp, retires, gets cuts or suffers an injury.

The players who didn’t have such bonuses did not get paid by their teams. Instead, they received the Canadian Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS), which covered 75 percent of their salaries from August until the beginning of February.

CFL teams had the option to cover the remaining 25 percent of player salaries but chose not to do so for players who switched teams. Exact figures varied by team, but the CFLPA did not respond to a request for a more detailed breakdown of player compensation in 2020.

I hope that helps.

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Not enough has been made of the direct and far reaching importance of the CFL at amateur levels. Jim Mullin, Calvin McCarty, Davis Sanchez, Glen Suitor have all pointed out concerns for the game in Canada but I think it’s bigger.

If you see a handful of Canadians in the NFL making millions, it’s because there is a pyramid of support at all levels in Canada training and developing players, raising the level of play and appreciation. So many who have been involved in the CFL coach and develop talent at the highest amateur levels improving quality of play and enjoyment of the game.

That is 27 of Canada’s most prominent universities, attended by 850,000-plus students in any given year, that play Canadian rules football in U Sports as well as 25 CEGEPs in Quebec and junior organizations like the CJFL and the communities that support them. Players and coaches from those levels improve quality of play and enjoyment for levels below them.

There are approximately 900 high schools in Canada that play Canadian football. There are certainly students at hundreds more high schools who wish they could have a chance to play. For what it’s worth, I played twelve-man football with full backfield motion and most kicks actually being returned. I still remember it — it was fun.

In all these cases, by nature of the sport, football has a significant presence in the facilities and operating budgets. The hundreds of current and former CFL players in this country are the key and most irreplaceable element in this pyramid that touches so many people and important institutions in this country.

-Denis from Montréal

Thanks for the message, Denis. You’re bang on.

It’s true that many Canadian children grow up dreaming about playing in the NFL. Some people consider this an indictment of three-down football, but that’s ridiculous in my opinion. Getting drafted by the NFL makes you a millionaire overnight, while most CFL players make a relatively standard wage. It’s about the money — not the number of downs.

As for talent, you are correct. Anyone who has been paying attention knows that Canada is producing the best players it ever has. We’re about to watch a record-number of Canadians get drafted by the NFL this week, which is really exciting. And the best part? Those who don’t make the NFL will enjoy long, successful careers in the CFL.

Shooting for the NFL is a good thing for Canadians players, coaches, fans, and stakeholders. Players like Chase Claypool, Josh Palmer, and John Metchie III are going to inspire a generation of Canadian kids to take up the sport. That’s a win for anyone who cares about the CFL or amateur football in this country.

Canadian talent is the best it has ever been and it’s going to keep getting better. This is why we need to maintain the ratio and ensure these players have a place to continue to play and develop at the professional level.

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