Tom Wright's resume has never looked better, but the CFL commissioner doesn't believe the adoption of the new salary management system is tied to his long-term future in football.
The media had been speculating for weeks that Wright's fate was connected to the salary cap proposal that he had been promoting.
"I believe the salary system and my situation as commissioner are completely unrelated," said Wright, who is in the final year of his contract.
"It was a lot of hard and responsible work by a collection of owners and operators - including myself - that did the work (on the SMS) and that is the way it should be reflected."
If Wright is to receive a new contract, he will need 75% support from the board of governors. The embattled commissioner has the Eskimos' support.
"It has to be one of the toughest jobs in Canada, but Tom has done a great job," said Eskimo COO Rick LeLacheur.[url=http://www.thestar.com/NASApp/cs/ContentServer?pagename=thestar/Layout/Article_Type1&c=Article&cid=1137624637046&call_pageid=968867503640&col=970081593064]http://www.thestar.com/NASApp/cs/Conten ... 0081593064[/url]
On the surface, this was the long-awaited and relatively straightforward implementation of a salary cap system for the CFL, a league that supposedly had one in place for several years and then took the laughable public position that such payroll limits had, in fact, never existed.
Those grand denials were a combination Who's-On-First/Monty Python-Black Knight skit, funny and preposterous at and not particularly helpful to the league's public image.
Based on what happened at the CFL meetings in Scottsdale, Ariz., two things are clear.
First, this isn't a comedy show any more. Somehow â€? and we're sure Sherwood Shwarz would never have stood for such a thing â€? some logical people have infiltrated the lodge.
Second, the political ground has shifted dramatically over the past year in the nine-team league, with the tectonic plate movements at least working in favour of Tom Wright, if not guaranteeing, a long future for the CFL commish.
The announcement of a $3.8 million salary cap for the 2007 season, with all kinds of penalties, league-appointed cap cops and whistle-blower benefits included, was the major element in what was, really, a surprisingly comprehensive and sweeping overhaul of the manner in which the league develops, distributes and controls the paycheques and work-related activities of football players in the Great White North.
"It adds a layer of needed sophistication to the league," said Argonauts president Keith Pelley.
No more hiding players on injured reserve. Expanded taxi squads to better absorb and evaluate the annual influx of NFL cuts. Sensible, useful changes to make the league work better.
This was a package developed over the course of a year by the salary cap committee commissioned by Wright, who was savvy enough to let that committee present its detailed proposals when a 10-hour session opened on Tuesday in the desert.
See, if Wright does the talking, he becomes the target. If the committee does it, it becomes more difficult for the traditional drawing of knives to commence.
"Maybe before things have not have the depth of planning that this had before they were brought before the owners," said Calgary co-owner Ted Hellard, one of the serious people gaining influence in the league these days. "If you don't have that depth and thought behind things, it allows the political side to come forward."
Hellard was part of the cap committee, and he told the Star yesterday he wasn't at all sure the package would pass muster when the meetings began.
That it did was proof of both the quality of the proposals and of the fact that Montreal owner Bob Wetenhall and B.C. owner David Braley aren't the kings of this particular castle any more.
Over the past year, the sale of the Stampeders to Hellard, John Forzani and others has produced a solid organization that supports Wright and his initiatives. Similarly, the Argonauts, under owners Howard Sokolowski and David Cynamon, are now a successful organization that people listen to, and the Argos are also behind Wright.
Last year, when the commissioner tried to get a multi-year deal, only three teams backed him, while three others were essentially neutral and three â€? Montreal, B.C. and Hamilton â€? wanted him gone.
Yesterday's 7-2 vote, which in some ways was an unofficial vote on Wright's leadership, was evidence of the manner in which a strong new voting bloc has grown with a different set of priorities than the formerly powerful Braley and Wetenhall.
Hellard preferred not to read political ramifications into yesterday's announcement.
"All I can tell you is without cost control, you spend 90 per cent of your time on expenses," he said. "So you nail down your costs first, then look to grow revenues."
Braley and Wetenhall opposed this type of reasoning mostly, one imagines, because they don't like being told in any way, shape or form how to run their businesses.
Both clearly have done well to rejuvenate their franchises, but politically speaking, they lost this round.
And it was an important round.