Something's rotten in CFL

PAUL FRIESEN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:50 AM ET

Somebody in the Canadian Football League has a serious credibility problem today: defensive end Ricky Foley or the league.

Or both.

Tuesday morning, Foley, the former B.C. Lions defensive end who tried his hand at the NFL this season, was returning to the Lions, reportedly turning down a more lucrative offer from Toronto.

At least, that's what he told the Vancouver newspapers.

"I won Canadian of the year there, led the league in sacks there and won a ring with those guys, and by coming back I can continue that success," Foley told the Vancouver Sun. "While Toronto was a bit of the unknown."

The Lions actually issued a news release trumpeting Foley's return.

"I couldn't imagine playing anywhere else," was Foley's quote from the release, reprinted in the Vancouver Province

Well, it looks like the man's imagination is about to be tested.

Because by the end of the day, the Toronto Argonauts had sent out a press release saying they had signed the CFL's top Canadian from last year.

In that release, Foley was quoted as saying he was thrilled to join the team he grew up watching (he's from a farm east of Toronto).

Reports indicate Toronto will pay Foley upwards of $165,000 per, although Argos brass quickly denied poaching Foley with a last-minute push on their offer.

"We went through our due diligence, made one offer and one offer only," Toronto head coach Jim Barker said in the news release.

So Foley had a last-minute change of heart. What's the big deal?

When you consider the same owner, David Braley, is bankrolling both teams, you've got a potentially huge problem.

The perception could easily be that Braley felt his Argos needed Foley more than his Lions do. Or how about this: that the league's market in Toronto, where the Argos have lost three straight, needs a winner more than a solid fan base in Vancouver does.

If I'm B.C. boss Wally Buono, I'm asking some pointed questions. But he won't, because his boss is Braley.

Maybe this was all above board, and maybe Foley and his agent simply went against one verbal agreement to sign another.

The perception, though, stinks to high heaven.

And that's precisely why having one man own two teams in an eight-team league was a rotten idea from the start.

MACK'S MESSAGE: Found it interesting to watch Joe Mack, the man who generally manages the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, spend the dying seconds of Sunday's Banjo Bowl going from player to player on the Winnipeg sideline to congratulate them.

Some of Mack's discussions, including one with defensive backs Jovon Johnson and Lavar Glover, appeared fairly animated.

"He just told us teams are going to hate to play us down the stretch," Johnson told the Sun. "If we can keep playing like this, we're going to be very hard to beat."

Mack may as well have thanked his players, too.

Because ending a five-game losing streak takes the heat off the rookie GM.

For now, at least.

WELCOME BACK, ERIC: So it didn't even take a year -- Eric Tillman is back.

The former Riders GM, who resigned nine months ago after pleading guilty to a relatively minor sexual assault charge involving his teenaged babysitter, took over the helm of the reeling Edmonton Eskimos Tuesday.

As harsh as we were in saying Tillman had to pay the price with his job then, we're equally glad to see him back.

He may not have a criminal record, but he's paid dearly for his crime, and perhaps won't ever completely live it down.

As for the Eskimos, it shouldn't take long before they're on their way up again.

He's that good.

paul.friesen@sunmedia.ca


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