New sheriff in town

KIRK PENTON -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:24 AM ET

The CFL has a new leader, and its board of governors is standing firmly behind its man.

Mark Cohon, a 41-year-old Toronto resident with an extensive sports business background, was introduced as the CFL's 12th commissioner yesterday after receiving unanimous support from the eight governors and a five-year contract.

Cohon, who has worked for both Major League Baseball and the NBA in international marketing capacities, is excited about his new role.

"The CFL is such a part of our Canadian identity," Cohon said during a teleconference yesterday. "And I couldn't think of a better job than being the commissioner of the CFL and being the steward of the league for the next five years -- and hopefully longer than that."

Cohon replaces Tom Wright, who decided to leave his post at the end of December after four years on the job. Wright didn't have the necessary support from the league's governors to receive a contract extension, so he left on his own.

"I understand that I have a board of governors that I have to report to and work with, and I am excited about that opportunity, because they've all been very supportive to date," Cohon said.

CFL board chairman and Winnipegger Gene Dunn, who served as interim commissioner, said the CFL constitution will be up for review under Cohon's tenure. It currently states that a motion needs a "super majority" -- or at least six of the eight votes at the table -- to get passed. That was the reason for Wright's shaky reign.

The situation already appears to be different, if not more secure, for Cohon, who has the business contacts and acumen to expand the CFL's burgeoning bank account.

It didn't hurt that he made the effort to visit all eight governors during the interview process.

"I believe that my five-year mandate makes me think about the future and not about a renewal of my contract," Cohon said. "... The unanimous decision by the board is a great indicator of the platform that I have."

Winnipeg Blue Bombers president and CEO Lyle Bauer feels Cohon will do a remarkable job and not have to look over his shoulder like his predecessor did.

"Most people will be impressed, as I was, with his experience and his passion for the game and what he can bring to the table," Bauer said. "... All the teams have clearly indicated their willingness to support Mark as the commissioner.

"We've had experience when the board is fractured in respect to the commissioner, and we all know it does not serve anyone any productive purpose."

Bauer said Cohon's appointment -- and the unanimous support he got -- doesn't necessarily represent a new era in the commissioner-troubled CFL.

"It's probably the next step in the evolution of the league and for Mark to build upon the successes that Tom Wright, his predecessor, initiated," he said. "You have to remember Tom Wright did quite a job ... The ball's been handed off now, and Mark can take it another distance."

Cohon wants to get out and meet the fans, and make sure young Canadians become CFL fans. He added it was too early to discuss his specific goals as commissioner, but he hinted that getting a team back in Ottawa, expanding to Atlantic Canada and instituting a drug-testing policy will be on his agenda at some point.

"(A drug-testing policy) is clearly something that the league has been thinking about for many years, and I understand there's a group looking at that right now," he said. "And as a father I think that's important."

Cohon will take office on April 17.

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THE NEW COMMISH

A closer look at new CFL commissioner Mark Cohon:

- Born: Chicago

- Raised: Toronto (since age two)

- Age: 41

- Family: wife Suzanne, daughter Parker

- Education: Chicago's Northwestern University (Bachelor of Science in Communications Studies)

Work Experience

- Major League Baseball -- director of corporate and game development

- National Basketball Association -- director and group manager of international marketing; managing director of NBA Europe; vice-president of business development

- Petopia Inc. -- chief development officer

- AudienceView -- president/CEO

Community Service

- Chairman, Ontario Science Centre

- Board member, Katimavik

- Founder, Youth Challenge International

- MORE ABOUT MARK: Lived in four countries during his time with MLB and the NBA ... was a zookeeper in Toronto for two years as a teenager ... shortly after university led an Arctic expedition with 30 Canadian and Soviet students ... played tight end and receiver during his high school football days ... favourite CFLer growing up was Tony Gabriel ... father George is the founder and former CEO of McDonald's Canada and McDonald's Russia.


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