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Rick Zamperin: CFL commissioner’s playoff format idea is a winner

CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie is drumming up feedback on a proposed new playoff format for the league. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan

The trial balloon that Canadian Football League commissioner Randy Ambrosie is currently floating around is, in my opinion, a no-lose proposition.

Ambrosie is in Hamilton Thursday night as he continues his cross-country tour of CFL cities to chat with team owners, coaches, players — and most importantly — fans of the league.

The hot topic right now is the CFL’s playoff format, which has long been a bone of contention for many fans, particularly those in the West Division, because in some years a team on the prairies has had a better record than the second-place finisher in the East but was denied a position in the playoff grid.

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It has been 24 years since the league brought in the crossover playoff format, which sees the top two teams in each division assured of a post-season berth, and the next two best teams — regardless of which division they play in — advance to the playoffs.

The new proposed format, which could be adopted as early as this year, would still see the top teams in the East and West earn a first-round bye, but the difference in the four next best teams (regardless of division) would get in.

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The beauty of Ambrosie’s proposed playoff plan is two-fold.

The idea of changing the playoff format will get CFL fans talking about it virtually all season long, and the debate will especially heat up as teams jockey for position over the final few weeks of the regular season.

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If implemented, Ambrosie appears to be open to trying the new format for a couple of seasons before determining if it will continue.

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I think it makes more sense if the league tests out any new playoff plan for a five-year period because the larger sample size will give league officials a better idea of whether or not it works better than the current system.

I think Ambrosie’s plan fills two buckets: ensuring that the best teams compete for the Grey Cup in November and giving fans something to chew on all season long.

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