Too close to call

JIM BENDER -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 7:44 AM ET

The CFL Coach of the Year will be crowned at a gala luncheon this very afternoon.

Although the candidates are Hamilton's Greg Marshall, Toronto's Mike (Pinball) Clemons and B.C.'s Wally Buono, it appears to be a two-horse race between Marshall and Clemons.

"You've got three great candidates, who in very different ways led their teams very successfully, and they are all deserving," Winnipeg Blue Bombers head coach Jim Daley said yesterday.

Although Clemons led the Argonauts to a Grey Cup victory after defeating the powerful Montreal Alouettes in the East Final, Marshall turned a team that had been 1-17 the previous season into a playoff squad in his very first year at the CFL helm.

"As much as we were disappointed not to have won the semifinal (over) Toronto, we did accomplish a lot and I'm very proud of what we did accomplish," Marshall said. "I hope I'm up for it next year because they usually give it to the Grey Cup winner."

The sold-out luncheon will cap off the CFL Congress, which has been held in Winnipeg for the very first time.

NO SPITTING: The CFL rules committee wants to crack down on those who expectorate in anger at either an opponent or an official.

"We think it's a despicable act to begin with and there's no place in the game for it," said committee chairman Ed Chalupka.

Those flagged for the indiscretion will be disqualified and their team will be penalized 25 yards.

The committee also passed a rule to penalize those with hazardous foreign objects, such as a Sharpie or knife, with a disqualification while his team gets a 10-yard objectionable conduct penalty. Those found with non-hazardous foreign objects, such as magazines (hello Keith Stokes), will get a 10-yard objectionable conduct penalty.

Speaking of hazardous, those players deemed to become a blood hazard from open wounds will be sent off the field for immediate attention. But he can return once he gets it repaired and does not necessarily have to miss any plays.

When a team only has 11 players on the field, the 12th can still rush to join them as long as he gets to his assigned position quick enough.

The pass interference penalty has been modified on passes deemed uncatchable. If uncatchable, the offending party will be flagged for illegal contact (10 yards). And the numbering system will be changed to allow all those wearing 0 to 49 and 70 to 00 to become eligible receivers. And the rule dealing with acceptable shoes has been re-defined, with the referee to monitor the situation.

The rules must still be passed by the board of governors.

The committee did not approve several proposals, including one to eliminate the rouge on a missed field goal that sails through the end zone in the air without the defending team having a chance to field it; the one to penalize a team for purposely punting the ball out of bounds and the one to penalize a receiver 10 yards for going offside.

NOTABLE: CFL commissioner Tom Wright confirmed that all nine CFL teams exceeded the salary cap last year but he is determined to get a workable one in place when the league reaches a new CBA with the CFL Players' Association. The current one expires June 1, 2006.


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