In Ambrosie, CFL makes the right choice for commissioner

With Randy Ambrosie poised to become the CFL’s next commissioner, it’s somewhat comforting to know the league has tried this before — hiring an ex-player — with varying degrees of success since former player Jake Gaudaur set the standard.

To begin with, the CFL got it right this time by hiring a Canadian. A Canadian with deep CFL roots and business roots.

Now the CFL governors, a meddling lot who have cycled through 12 commissioners (three on an interim basis) in the 33 years since Gaudaur retired, have to leave Ambrosie alone. Put him in charge. Trust him.

That’s the problem with the CFL: Unlike the NFL, which thrives by giving its commissioners absolute authority, the nine CFL governors are constantly battling over petty issues and refuse to let anyone else be in charge. It’s the reason why Jeffrey Orridge, an American and the most recent and most curious hiring, lasted only 25 months as CFL commissioner.

Ambrosie has most recently been CEO of a large, Canadian investment firm, so his financial and business acumen are beyond reproach.

A 54-year-old native of Winnipeg, Ambrosie was an offensive lineman who played for the University of Manitoba before a nine-year CFL career divided between the Calgary Stampeders, Toronto Argonauts and Edmonton Eskimos. He won a Grey Cup with Edmonton and retired following that 1993 season.

Offensive linemen are frequently the most articulate, intelligent and thoughtful members of a football team. Dealing with Ambrosie as a player proved those points; he was always approachable and introspective, one of the Eskimos who shook his head and tried to downplay the team’s 16-2 regular-season record in 1989 as his teammate, brash defensive lineman John Mandarich, boasted about how easily Edmonton would blow past the 9-9 Saskatchewan Roughriders in the West final. In one of the biggest upsets in CFL history, Saskatchewan won 32-21 en route to its surprising Grey Cup victory, a championship that would have been preordained for the Eskimos if they had more players approaching it like Ambrosie.

During his last two seasons as a player, Ambrosie was secretary of the CFL Players’ Association and fought staunchly to protect Canadian jobs as the league tried expanding into the U.S. Gaudaur, another Canadian protectionist, would have been proud.

Gaudaur had the job from 1968-84 and was the CFL’s longest-tenured commissioner, overseeing 16 years of stability as its teams benefited from sold-out stadiums and well-paying broadcast rights for radio and television. Doug Mitchell, Bill Baker and Larry Smith are the former players who have since followed Gaudaur in the job.

Mitchell, Gaudaur’s successor, left the CFL in decent shape, but Baker was summoned for a one-year term (1989) as a crisis manager and Smith (1992-97) took over a league so desperate for capital that he supervised its ill-fated expansion into the U.S., something that would have appalled Gaudaur.

Ambrosie was reportedly in the running (and perhaps the runner-up) just over two years ago when the CFL governors decided Orridge would be the next commissioner.

Why they didn’t choose Ambrosie then is anybody’s guess, but at least they can now correct their mistake.

Darrell Davis

Darrell Davis

Darrell Davis has reported on the Riders for more than 20 years and was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame media wing in 2006.
Darrell Davis
Darrell Davis
About Darrell Davis (119 Articles)
Darrell Davis has reported on the Riders for more than 20 years and was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame media wing in 2006.

7 Comments on In Ambrosie, CFL makes the right choice for commissioner

  1. Horsieland // June 29, 2017 at 2:01 pm //

    It has yet to be seen if this is the right choice. Lets wait a few years before we determine that

  2. Anyone is an improvement to Orridge

    • You are 110% right on that one Tom. Orridge had no ties to the CFL game whatsoever. And it really showed during his rule. This league will be much better off without him. Also.. How fast can we get this logo changed? Lol It looks like crap.

      • Horsieland // June 29, 2017 at 5:47 pm //

        Pretty logos don’t make for a great league Rob. Lets reach for some real results not the superficial as you want.

  3. Great article. Background looks good but gotta show the proof in the pudding as they say. Hopefully he won’t be a 1 and done guy and will stick around long enough to take the CFL and take its teams to the highest level possible in every way.

  4. I agree with Mr. Davis, right choice finally.

  5. What the hell is with everyone complaining about the CFL logo. I fail to see the issue with it and who cares. I think the commissioner will have big issues to address. Good luck. Looks like a great selection. Best of luck to Jeffery Oridge.

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