C here, Commissioner!

STEVE SIMMONS, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 11:25 AM ET

Of all the lame-brain ideas the Canadian Football League has fought through over the years -- from American expansion, to bringing back the Gliebermans, to hiring Donald Crump as commissioner, to awarding points for missed field goals -- nothing is as outright foolish as the idea of dropping the number of Canadian starters in the league from seven to four.

This is a motherhood issue.

This is an identity issue for a league forever searching for an identity.

This can't be allowed to happen.

The timing of this idea, apparently born out of the upcoming collective bargaining negotiations, is out of step with what CFL commissioner Mark Cohon recently has said and out of step with what is happening with football development in Canada.

Cohon has gone on record as wanting more grass-roots involvement in the CFL. He said that in one breath. In another breath, this one unspoken, he wants to reduce the number of Canadian players on the field. He can't have it both ways.

Either it's the Canadian Football League or it's not. Otherwise, get rid of all the Canadians, turn this into NFL Canada and turn out the lights because the party will be over.

Russ Jackson already has come out loudly against this nefarious plan by some CFL people. He wouldn't be alone. What would the CFL be without Tony Gabriel and Peter Dalla Riva and Michael O'Shea and Dan Ferrone and Bobby Taylor and Paul Masotti and Tom Forzani and Chris Walby and Paul Bennett

And what about Normie Kwong or Dave Fennell or Ronnie Stewart or Whit Tucker or Ray Elgaard or Roger Aldag or Dirty 30, Jimmy Young or Lui Passaglia?

This is who we are. And what's strange is that there are two Canadian head coaches in a league of eight -- Wally Buono and Marcel Bellefeuille -- and half the teams are run by Canadians in one way or another.

Canadians that play are referred to as non-imports in their own country.

And when anyone asks your nationality, do you say Canadian or non-import?

Here is a truism the CFL can't do anything about: There are more quality Canadian football players than ever before, and fewer quality Americans, playing in the CFL.

You know the kind of players that are being developed in Canada when Vaughn Martin, out of the University of Western Ontario, is getting playing time with the San Diego Chargers and Nick Kaczur is starting for the New England Patriots and the St. Louis Rams' O.J. Atogwe is one of the most coveted defensive backs in entire NFL.

Canadians, these days, can play in the NFL. The CFL was not so sure.

The CFL I grew up on had first-rate American talent. Just not anymore. Time was, the CFL could pay dollar for dollar for a fourth-round NFL draft pick, a seventh-round pick, and starting players in the CFL made similar money to backup players in the NFL.

The CFL was an attractive alternative to U.S. college players. Now it's a last step. Players such as Granville Liggins and Jim Stillwagon never find their way north anymore. The money difference is too extreme. So the quality of American players has dropped significantly over the years: The CFL hasn't been able to develop high-end imports because once they make a difference, a la Cameron Wake, they are economically bound to go south.

Not just that, but quarterbacks in the CFL aren't the same anymore either and this isn't economical, it's cultural.

Once upon a time, Warren Moon had to go north to get a chance to play quarterback. But the attitude that an African-American couldn't play the most important position in the largest of all leagues has disappeared along with the ignorance. There are at least six African-American quarterbacks starting in the NFL and more than twice that number as backups. Some of those quarterbacks, in years gone by, would have found their way to Canada.

Just not anymore.

The way football has developed in Quebec, the way minor football and university football has grown in Ontario, this should be an optimistic time for the future of Canadians in the CFL. But instead, the opposite is being pushed and before it gets any momentum, this nonsense has to be stopped.

STEVE.SIMMONS@SUNMEDIA.CA


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