In 1959, my father took me to my first CFL game. We watched the game from the legendary North End Zone of the relatively new Winnipeg Stadium. The eventual Grey Cup champions demolished the hapless Saskatchewan Roughriders. However, it was the other 1959 regular season game between Saskatchewan and Winnipeg that created some dubious history.
On the night of Monday, Oct. 26, 1959, the 11-and-4 Bombers met the 1-and-14 Riders. The game had no playoff implications. Frank Tripucka, a former All Star quarterback was the Rider’s head coach. It was common knowledge that he was not eligible to play. Due to injuries, Tripucka played anyway, and led his team to a 37 to 30 upset victory. CFL Commissioner Syd Halter penalized Saskatchewan by awarding the win to Winnipeg. Almost exactly 50 years later, different Regina and Winnipeg football teams (Rams and Bisons) would be involved in another eligibility controversy. This time Regina won the boardroom football victory.
The Nov. 3 boardroom decision to replace the Bisons in the playoffs was actually the second round of boardroom football for the team in 2009. Simon Fraser was caught using an ineligible player in their 41-7 victory over the Bisons on Sept. 11. In other words, a 41-7 loss turned into a victory and then a no contest. How can the result of a lopsided football game change twice, weeks after the final gun? What is a “no contest?”
Football coaches and players realize that their mistakes can hurt the entire team. Costly injuries can change a team’s destiny. Arm injuries to their number one QB cost the Bombers the 1960 and 2007 Grey Cups. Ice, snow, wind, fog, cold, rain and other terrible weather all help determine the result of some games. A 1970 blizzard probably helped the average Calgary Stampeders defeat the 14-and-2 Saskatchewan Roughriders in the Western Final. However, games should never be won or lost in the boardroom.
The administration of any league must find a way to determine who is eligible to play. This information should be confidentially available to the other teams. If an ineligible player is in uniform, the on-field officials should immediately disqualify the player. If the ineligibility is not detected, it should be treated in the same way a mistake by an on-field or off-field game official. It is taken seriously but the game result is not changed. In the recent Montreal at British Columbia game, the Alouettes thought that a mistake by an off-field official cost them the game. The CFL admitted a mistake, but correctly refused to change the result.
We all have personal problems that seem to linger with no easy solution. When we go to a game, it is refreshing to see a decisive result in about three hours. Boardroom football deprives fans of this decisive result. Also, it is interesting to note that Regina decisively lost their unexpected playoff game. The confusion and Regina’s shortened preparation time probably resulted in a less competitive game.
As a former U of M student, I thank you for this opportunity. I was happy to be attending university when Bobby Kramer led the Bisons to the championship. I was very happy when we won it again in 2007. It is essential that sport fans speak out against game results being changed in the boardroom. The final score stands!
Fred Morris is an alumnus of the U of M.