Are you ready for some football?

ROB TYCHKOWSKI

, Last Updated: 8:34 AM ET

CFL commissioner Mark Cohon was in Edmonton recently where he addressed a number of topics facing the league.

Sun Media: What do you see as the biggest challenge facing the CFL as you move into the commissioner's chair?

Cohon: I really don't see any huge challenges for the league. I view it as opportunity. I'm not being naive. One of the things I did when I travelled across the country is meet with all the governors and understand what all the issues were in the league. And I realized there really weren't any major issues. There are no major fires. Now is a time to build and that's what I'm going to be focusing on. It's an opportunity to engage young fans, an opportunity to go back and engage corporate Canada and reconnect with the younger generation.

Sun Media: In the past, teams haven't always abided by the salary cap and commissioners were powerless to do anything about it. How will that change?

Cohon: One of the things the governors were smart about is they put strict guidelines within the last constitution, and fines in place if teams don't adhere to it. I've been very clear from Day 1 that that's my role. I really believe there are some teeth within our constitution that will enable me to enforce the cap. Teams are taking it seriously (with recent roster moves), that's a nice thing to see.

Sun Media: Ottawa has already had two failed franchises, does it deserve another chance?

Cohon: Of course Ottawa deserves another chance. One of the things we've clearly talked about as a league is we have to make sure we bring an ownership group into place that has the resources to make it a success. You're going to have to invest money into that market to win the fans back. We're not in a rush, we have to make the right decision. It would be a horrible mistake for us to rush back there, find an ownership group and be in a situation two years from now where we have a failure there. We're not going to let that happen.

Sun Media: And the possibility of expansion beyond Ottawa?

Cohon: My predecessor talked about going coast to coast. The issue there is finding a big enough stadium out east, whether Halifax, Quebec City or Moncton. That's a longer term vision where you have to get all different levels of government behind you, and the corporate community behind you to make that a reality. I'd like to see it, but, again, it's going to take time. I have a five-year contract so I'll have time to see those things through.

Sun Media: One of your goals is to make the CFL more attractive to the younger generation. How?

Cohon: One of the things we did was put the draft on-line and it was a great success for us. We had 11,000 people viewing it and 35,000 on our website that day. We were talking in the office recently about bringing back Punt, Pass and Kick. Gets kids involved with participation. On a league basis, I think we can get roll out programs with sponsors to get kids playing again. That's what I'm going to figure out how to do. We also need to start profiling our players and build some creativity there.

Sun Media: Is it time for the CFL to introduce a drug policy?

Cohon: As the father of a one-year-old, I think it's important. I've already started to have that dialogue with some of the governors and I've had initial conversation with the P.A. about it. We have to do all of our homework on it, in terms of cost, what all the other leagues are doing. I think it's important that we get to a point where we have a policy. There's many moving parts to this, but I believe it's critical. We have to be above board in making sure we look after our athletes.

Sun Media: Past commissioners haven't had much authority in the CFL. How do you avoid becoming another puppet?

Cohon: It was an 8-0 vote in terms of the mandate, which I think is important. No. 2, it's five-year contract. In our constitution, six of eight have to agree (to fire him). So I'm here for five years unless I really mess it up and I'm confident that I won't. I think I have a mandate now where I don't have to be looking over my shoulder. I can make the tough decisions and not worry about whether they're re-negotiating my contract.

Sun Media: Why do you want to be commissioner?

Cohon: A couple of reasons. I played the game and loved the game, I love going to games and interacting with fans. I love what this game means to our cultural identity. And I think I can eventually make a difference. You want to go into a job where you think you can make a difference and I think over the course of the next five years I can, with the right people in place and the right attitude from the owners, which I think is there.

rob.tychkowski@sunmedia.ca

QUICK HITS

Q: Your resume says you were an Earth Ranger as a youngster. Any relation to Power Rangers?

A: It's a young kid who's passionate about the environment and wants to make a difference. I was in that organization for just under a year.

Q: Best thing you ever saw in the CFL?

A: Probably that Tony Gabriel catch in 1976.

Q: Goofiest thing you ever saw the CFL do?

A: I don't think teams should ban visiting mascots?

Q: You've lived all over the world. What's the grossest thing anyone put on your plate and expected you to eat?

A: Goat eyeballs. In the Middle East.

Q: How were they?

A: I have no idea. I tucked them under some rice.

Q: You used to be a zookeeper as a kid. What skills did you learn that will serve you well as commissioner?

A: Respecting the big animals.

Q: Do you ever worry that someone will win a Grey Cup on the last play of the game by missing a field goal and still getting a single point?

A: No. Whatever you can do to win.

Q: You are friends with NBA commissioner David Stern. What advice has he given you?

A: He's mentoring me. He told me, 'Mark you have six questions, you better make them good.' So I'll have to think hard about what I want to ask him.


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