Football ops cap hinders Riders’ Craig Dickenson assembling quality coaching staff

Photo courtesy: Scott Grant /

The CFL’s football operations cap is putting the squeeze on coaching staffs according to Saskatchewan Roughriders head coach Craig Dickenson.

The $2 million cap on salaries that can be paid to general managers, coaches, scouts, equipment people and video personnel on each team has been controversial since its introduction after the 2018 season.

The rule was introduced to make the CFL more viable and shift more of the league’s revenues to its players who are generally understood to be underpaid. That cap is now 20 percent less than it was before the pandemic and Dickenson admits it has become a problem.

“It’s been noticeable because I now have to try to, along with J.O. [general manger Jeremy O’Day], put a staff together. So, we see it every day,” Dickenson explained.

Still, the coach seems reluctant to point the finger at the league office for enforcing such a limit to his resources.

“We’re trying to get this CFL thing going again, so I kind of understand both sides of it. It is difficult to get the best coaches for what we can pay them now, but we got to make sure we have a profitable league as well, so it’s a tough one,” Dickenson said.

“Hopefully if the league has some success, the Grey Cup is a success and they start seeing some rosier pictures, maybe the TV deal sweetens up a little bit and maybe we get a little better attendance going forward, maybe we can address that in the future.”

Saskatchewan’s sideline general feels the cap has tied his hands for recruiting a quality staff and views the limitation as a barrier to retaining and developing his own people.

“It’s hard to get a guy to take an entry level job for $35,000. For $50,000 you can get some guys that will think about it. It’s a challenge and something I think we’re going to have to deal with for a little while,” Dickenson said.

And that’s not all. Dickenson thinks a lack of off-season mini-camps — connected to the football operations cap — is to blame, at least in part, for the league’s offensive struggles this year.

“It takes time, it takes relationships to develop for offences to click and it just doesn’t happen overnight. Anytime you can get the quarterbacks and the receivers together in the off-season working out, anytime you can get some of your team, maybe half of your team, together for a mini-camp for three days, all that pays off,” Dickenson said.

“I hope we can get back to that at some point. I’m hoping this off-season will look more like previous off-seasons where we were able to do that and I think you’ll see the quality of football improve the more time the offensive players get to spend together in the off-season.”

The previous Riders head coach, Chris Jones, complained about the cap shortly before he left prior to the 2019 season. It sounds like Jones’ replacement, Dickenson, isn’t happy about it, either.

Brendan McGuire has covered the CFL since 2006 in radio and print. Based in Regina, he has a front-row view of Rider Nation.