(This column was originally published on Dec. 13, 2017).
Back when I worked for a living, I used to talk about the Canadian Football League so much that it became a bit of a joke among my fellow sports writers.
Since the colleges in my primary orbit were Clemson, South Carolina and Georgia, I could always be counted on to stay on top of which Tigers, Gamecocks and Bulldogs were in the CFL.
And as a UAB graduate, I keep a close on any Blazers who might find their way onto rosters as “internationals.”
Thing is, the CFL is not a novelty for me. I legitimately love it.
You might remember the league tried its “American experiment” a couple of decades ago in which franchises were placed in the United States. Personally, I thought the plan was terrific and had high hopes it would last.
Of course, it didn’t.
The CFL is not just a league of unique rules, it’s also very Canadian culturally, and the feng shui of tackle football dictates that the CFL have teams in Canadian cities only.
I get that, and respect it.
But since I now have a lot of free time on my hands, I’ve used an inordinate amount of it thinking about professional sports leagues that I would like to form.
One is the Global Football League, which I’ll address in a future column.
But the one nearest and dearest to my heart is the one I’ll write about today – the American League of Canadian Football.
Yep, the ALCF would bring the Canadian pro game to the Lower 48, giving Americans their own version of the CFL.
That means the ALCF would adopt most of the rules used by the CFL, such as:
- A playing field 110 yards long and 65 yards wide.
- Goal posts situated on the goal line.
- Three downs to make 10 yards and a first down.
- Twelve players to a side (extra slotback on offense, extra secondary player on defense).
- All backs allowed in motion toward the line of scrimmage.
- No fair catches on punt returns.
- Fumbled balls that go out of bounds belong to the last team to touch the ball.
- Kicking teams awarded a single point for missed field goals or punts that are downed in the end zone by the receiving team.
- Players who line up behind the kicker on a punt or field goal try may recover an “onside” kick.
Now remember I said the ALCF would adopt most rules of the CFL. One change would be the depth of end zones, which span 20 yards in the CFL. This was a problem that plagued the American experiment since many stadiums were not built to accommodate such lengthy playing fields.
So, while 20-yard deep end zones are desirable, teams will have to improvise and just make them as deep as possible (just think about the varied sizes of outfields in baseball and it makes better sense).
OK, now that we’ve got the rules set, we have to select cities.
This is the tough part.
When most leagues are formed, the first order of business is to get teams in major media markets for the purposes of advertising and TV revenue. Problem is, it’ll be impossible for the ALCF to compete with cities that field NFL teams.
So we won’t.
Instead, the 10-team ALCF will place its flagship franchises in Birmingham, Memphis, Norfolk, Orlando, Portland, Rochester, Sacramento, San Antonio, Tulsa and Wichita.
I’ve even gone to the trouble of giving the teams nicknames for you: Birmingham Battalion, Memphis Blues, Norfolk Mariners, Orlando Coasters, Portland Brews, Rochester Boom, Sacramento Rivermen, San Antonio Sol, Tulsa Oilers and Wichita Flight.
Following the CFL model, each team would play two exhibition games before embarking on an 18-game regular season that begins in June of each year. And, like their Canadian counterparts, the average salary for an ALCF player would be roughly $80,000 per season.
Am I the only person who has dreamed of such a league?
I’m a member of a great Facebook group, “CFL Fans In SEC Country,” which features hardcore, knowledgeable fans – some who even venture to the Grey Cup every year.
But are there enough of them to put down seed money for the ALCF and make me commissioner?
That’s another story.
If they can pull it off, though, we’ll all have a helluva party when the Battalion hosts the Blues in the 2020 season opener.