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JONES: CFL needs to adjust schedule to deal with COVID-19 pandemic

Jake Ceresna (94) takes part in the second day of the Edmonton Eskimos' training camp at Commonwealth Stadium, in Edmonton Monday May 21, 2018.
Jake Ceresna (94) takes part in the second day of the Edmonton Eskimos' training camp at Commonwealth Stadium, in Edmonton Monday May 21, 2018.

The Canadian Football League kicked off the week by announcing the start of training camps have been delayed.

Not news.

Doesn’t move the dial.

Expected by everybody.

At best, the CFL is looking at a 12-game regular season and has been for a while.

What it does, however, is officially open speculation on what a schedule could or should look like and get people’s heads wrapped around the idea that the window the league is likely looking at here if there is even going to be a season at all is not very wide.

The reality is that it’s between 12 and eight games to be able to have a credible season and hold semifinals, finals and the 108th Grey Cup game in Regina Nov. 22 as scheduled.

For an eight game schedule, that would be Labour Day.

For a 12-game schedule, with a short training camp, that would be Canada Day.

Think about it. July 1 is three months away.

That’s three months for the COVID-19 pandemic, with the number of positive tests still rising even with signs of levelling off in some Canadian cities.

For the number of positives tests to drop and stop in the next two and three months might be possible in Winnipeg and Edmonton but how likely might it be in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal?

There’s also the border.

The U.S.A. is escalating past Italy, Spain and Germany. The majority of starting players in the league need to be able to cross the border and then self-isolate for 14 days.

Is it a reasonable expectation for the United States to be COVID-19 free by the middle of June? Get serious.

Play with Canadians only? You need quarterbacks to play this game. The CFL has been playing without quality starting Canadian quarterbacks essentially dating back to Don Getty, Russ Jackson and Frank Cosentino.

Understand there’s no play-in-front-of-empty-stadiums scenarios possible when it comes to the Canadian Football League.

The NFL, NBA, Major League Baseball, and even to some extent, the NHL, have big enough television contracts where it might make some sense.

The CFL is basically a gate-driven league.

The money from TSN isn’t enough to cover expenses without a minimum of about 25,000 fans in the stands.

I’ve been saying for some time (two weeks I think … that’s a long time the way our world has been changing) that the best-case scenario would likely be eight to 12 games.

And believe it would make the most sense to go back to pre-interlocking days and play exclusively within the East and West Divisions.

I’ve heard the league has one proposal to play an eight game schedule with every team playing one game against every other team. But why would they do that? The biggest gates involve the rivalry games like Edmonton-Calgary, Saskatchewan-Winnipeg, Toronto-Hamilton, Ottawa-Montreal, B.C.-Calgary, Edmonton-Saskatchewan, Calgary-Saskatchewan.

One of the biggest advantages of eliminating the “interlocking” games, as they were once known, is that it would keep the teams off airplanes.

The league could play the entire schedule in the East without going near an airport.

You could play half the games in the West by bus.

Actually you could play them all that way with three-bus convoys, one for offence, one for defence and the other for special teams, trainers and equipment and assorted staff.

It could be a great adventure. I remember one season there was a pilot strike in Canada and travelling with the Eskimos by bus to cover a game against the B.C. Lions in Vancouver.

It might involve some two-game road trips especially if Winnipeg and Vancouver tried it.

For a 12-game schedule in the East every team would play two games at home and two games on the road against every other team. The West would have two at home and one on the road involving the five teams and could fight over who got the two home games against Saskatchewan.

With an eight game schedule it would be one at home and one away for everybody in the West. In the East they’d have one at home and one away with another meeting against two of the teams, obviously including a Toronto-Hamilton and Montreal-Ottawa game — even two if they all signed off on it.

Good thing Halifax didn’t come into the league this year. And they might as well announce the cancelation of that July 25 Saskatchewan-Toronto game in Halifax now. Not happening.

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