When the Canadian Football League's Board of Governors meetings ended in Toronto yesterday, the league was down to 12 teams. The Memphis Mad Dogs had folded, and the imminent demise of the Birmingham Barracudas threatened to reduce the number to 11. CFL officials and the players have much to address in the coming weeks.
League owners voted to lower the salary cap from $2.5 million to $2.3 million and to eliminate the marquee player designation that allows a franchise player's salary not to be counted against the cap.
The CFL Players Association has to approve those changes, as well as any modifications in the most contentious rule facing the league: the import quota. Canadian teams must carry at least 20 Canadian players, but American teams have no such restrictions.
"The ratio has to be discussed. Even Canadian players are saying it has to be discussed," Board of Governors chairman John Tory said.
CFL commissioner Larry Smith said he wants to know how many teams are in for next season by next month's owners meetings, so the 1996 schedule can be released by the end of January.
Stallions owner Jim Speros hopes to remain in Baltimore next year. But he probably will have to relocate, with the Cleveland Browns expecting to move to Baltimore for the 1996 season. Speros said he told Smith to "just put a 'B' next to the schedule and count on us, wherever we wind up."
Speros was accompanied in Toronto by coach Don Matthews, who has been rumored lately to be a candidate for the vacant Argonauts coaching position.
Matthews attended the meetings to provide input on football operations issues such as the salary cap, but he did meet with Toronto president Bob Nicholson, after Speros gave him permission.
"It was just a get-to-know-each-other situation. I'd never met Bob," Matthews told the Toronto Star. "He didn't ask me if I was interested in the job. Right now, it's not an opportunity. It's just interest, and that's flattering."
Said Speros: "Don Matthews is under contract with me next year. Whether we're playing in Baltimore or someplace else, he's my coach."