The CIS factor

"Well, here's another reason to like (the Argonauts). When they line up to face the Winnipeg Blue Bombers tomorrow, they'll start nine Canadians, otherwise known as non-imports.

"Why does that matter? Well, they only have to start seven.

In a country that self-consciously believes a product of Ohio State, USC or Florida is genetically superior to one from Laurier or Acadia, even when it comes to playing the three-down game, that is unusual. Other teams have done it, but it's still a rarity."
-- Damien Cox, Toronto Star, Nov. 17

Cox has it mostly right. It's commendable for the Argos, but it's not unusual. All four teams playing in today's CFL division finals start more Canadians than they're required to by the league's byzantine import rules, and each has CIS grads playing important positions.

What's interesting, though, is that the two worst teams in the league this season were not relying too heavily on CIS talent by season's end. On the last weekend of the regular season, the Edmonton Eskimos and Hamilton Tiger-Cats, played a nothing game that held little interest to anyone outside the players' immediate families. The Eskimos didn't start a single CIS grad. The Ticats, albeit with Jesse Lumsden injured, started two, rookie wideout Chris Bauman (U of Regina) and safety Pierre Gauthier (Laval)

There's other reasons for why the Ticats and Eskimos are struggling. It might be telling, though, that the teams with the highest degree of CanCon are the ones still alive for the Grey Cup.

The Argos' nine Canadian starters include three CIS grads: wideout André Talbot, guard Jude St. John and linebacker Michael O'Shea. Their opponent in the East final, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, also have nine, including four who played in the CIS: Left tackle Alexandre Gauthier (Laval), left guard Matthew Sheridan (Manitoba), centre Dominic Picard (Laval) and slotback Arjei Franklin (Windsor).

It's the same story for the West final, with seven CIS products starting. The host B.C. Lions start a total of eight Canadians, including a middle linebacker, former UBC standout Javy Glatt, which used to be unheard of. (Their other CIS grads are guard Kelly Bates and slotback Jason Clermont.) Their opponent, the Saskatchewan Roughriders, have Clermont clone Andy Fantuz at slotback, along with Gene Makowsky and Mike Abou-Mechek on the offensive line and safety Scott Gordon.

Let that be a lesson to the teams who were left watching the playoffs about the need to do more with Canadian-born and -trained talent.

Can-con gives Argos an edge (Damien Cox, Toronto Star)
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