Andrew Bucholtz

  • Firing head coach Mike Benevides is a dramatic change for the B.C. Lions. Will it pay off?

    Andrew Bucholtz at 55 Yard Line 21 hrs ago

    The B.C. Lions' 50-17 humiliation at the hands of the Montreal Alouettes in Sunday's East semifinal led to plenty of calls for bold action from B.C. fans, and they certainly got that with the team's announcement Thursday that they'd fired head coach Mike Benevides. While some were calling for Benevides' head, it's remarkable to see a team fire a guy with a 33-21 record, no losing seasons, a playoff berth in his final year and two years remaining on the contract extension he signed earlier this season, especially given that the LIons' primary shortcomings didn't have a lot to do with him. There are a lot of ways this could go very wrong for B.C., and only two possibilities that would seem to make it the right call: one, they already are targeting a head coach who's even better, or two, there were internal problems inside the Lions' organization that necessitated a move this drastic. 

  • Plan to move up the CFL season is gaining traction, but it has drawbacks as well as benefits

    Andrew Bucholtz at 55 Yard Line 22 hrs ago

    This weekend's divisional semifinals featured cold weather and low attendance (15,107 in Montreal, 26,237 in Edmonton, both the lowest totals for those teams this year), and that's spurred even more discussion than normal about moving the start of the CFL season up. That discussion's percolated a bit over the last few years, but it got a new injection of life with Edmonton Eskimos' president Len Rhodes and Calgary Stampeders' president Gordon Norrie teaming up to try and convince the league to start the season earlier  (which happened even before the semifinals' poor attendance). Their request, which proposes moving the season ahead by approximately two weeks starting in 2016, will be discussed at a meeting of the CFL Management Council from Dec. 10-11 in Las Vegas, but outgoing commissioner Mark Cohon said the idea's time may have come. Via Terry Jones of  The Edmonton Sun :

  • Photos: Behind the scenes of the painting of the logos on Canadian North's new CFL plane

    Andrew Bucholtz at 55 Yard Line 1 day ago

    The CFL unveiled a cool new element of its partnership with official league airline Canadian North Tuesday, a Boeing 737-300 plane painted with the CFL logo, the French (LCF) logo, and all of the current CFL teams' logos. Doing this was quite a complicated process, taking 140 hours over seven days (twenty-hour days) at Premier Aviation Overhaul Center in Trois-Rivières, Quebec. 28 people were involved, and this used 20 gallons of paint in 21 different colours. In addition to being in regular Canadian North service, the plane's going to be used to fly the Grey Cup champions home from Vancouver in two weeks. Here are some photos Canadian North released of the plane being painted. First, what it looked like before most of this work was done, with just the CFL logo outlined on the tail:

    Next, what the West Division side looked like early in the process.

  • Exclusive: CFL VP Matt Maychak on the league's progress towards a domestic violence policy

    Andrew Bucholtz at 55 Yard Line 2 days ago

    Following the release of video of Ray Rice striking his fiancée and his subsequent release by the NFL's Baltimore Ravens in September, the CFL took the extraordinary and perhaps unprecedented step of issuing a statement from commissioner Mark Cohon that Rice would not be permitted to play for a CFL team. However, that action was done under the commissioner's powers and not a league domestic violence policy, because the CFL doesn't currently have one (apart from a more general bylaw that lets the commissioner punish any player or executive who "brings the league into disrepute"). In the wake of the Rice case, Gary Lawless of  The Winnipeg Free Press made the case on Sept. 17 that the CFL should develop a domestic violence policy, and the league told him about some preliminary efforts along those lines. Little had been heard on that front until this week, though, when Steve Eder wrote a New York Times  piece about accusations and charges of domestic violence against two former NFLers who are now in the CFL, Robert Sands and Brandon Underwood.

  • Why did the CFL treat Robert Sands and Brandon Underwood differently than Ray Rice? Where do the CFL and the PA stand on domestic violence?

    Andrew Bucholtz at 55 Yard Line 2 days ago

    The New York Times  piece on current Eskimo Robert Sands and current Stampeder Brandon Underwood's past charges of domestic violence indicates that both players are still under suspension by the NFL. That raises questions about why the CFL treated them differently than Ray Rice, who was specifically banned from the CFL after being released by the NFL's Baltimore Ravens once video of him striking his fiancée emerged. The NFL suspended Underwood for two games in 2011 under its personal-conduct policy, but the  Times  story says it was unclear whether that was for the incident with his wife or his involvement in another case that saw him plead guilty to misdemeanour prostitution. However, it doesn't appear he fulfilled that suspension. The  Times' ' statement that Underwood was "cut by the Packers before the 2011 season and has not played in the N.F.L. since," as he signed with Oakland in 2012 and Dallas in 2013, but he didn't make it out of training camp with either team. Thus, he presumably wouldn't have served his suspension. Similarly, Sands was cut before the 2013 season and didn't play anywhere in the NFL since, so the two-game suspension for him mentioned in the  Times  piece (which, oddly enough, he says he wasn't notified of), also wouldn't have been served. 

  • At least four CFL players on teams still in the playoffs have faced domestic violence charges

    Andrew Bucholtz at 55 Yard Line 2 days ago

    While there's plenty to look ahead to on the field ahead of the CFL's East and West Division Finals Sunday, at least three of the four remaining teams have players who have faced ugly off-field accusations of domestic violence. This discussion is springing up thanks to the New York Times ' piece this week on the NFL's handling of domestic violence cases, which featured detailed allegations against the Eskimos' Robert Sands and the Stampeders' Brandon Underwood, but they're not the only players who could be featured in such a story. The Montreal Alouettes also have at least two players who have faced domestic violence allegations in the past, Chad Johnson and Chris Rainey. This may not be an exhaustive list, as many of these cases aren't extensively reported. Here's a breakdown of each case and where it stands. See this piece for a discussion of the CFL's progress on developing a domestic violence policy, and this one for why these guys were allowed in while Ray Rice wasn't.

  • Eskimos' Robert Sands and Stampeders' Brandon Underwood named in NYT story on domestic abuse

    Andrew Bucholtz at 55 Yard Line 2 days ago

    The CFL drew some American attention this week, but not the kind it would prefer. The New York Times ran a big piece by Steve Eder on allegations of domestic abuse from two former wives of NFL players and the lack of support they say they received from their NFL teams and other players' wives. While the piece was predominantly focused on the NFL, it does mention that both of the players accused in it are now in the CFL: Robert Sands is a rookie defensive back with the Edmonton Eskimos, while fellow rookie defensive back Brandon Underwood played with the Toronto Argonauts earlier this year and is now on the practice roster with the Calgary Stampeders. Neither player is a huge contributor for their team at this moment in time (Sands only recorded two special-teams tackles this year, and is currently on the six-game injured list, while Underwood's only on the practice roster), but there could still be some focus on them ahead of the teams' matchup in the West Final Sunday thanks to this story. (An odd factor here is that the Eskimos and Stampeders publicly teamed up to take a stand against domestic violence in partnership with the Alberta Council of Women's Shelters earlier this year.) These aren't the only current CFL players with domestic abuse allegations in their backgrounds, though, and the numbers of players so impacted may put extra pressure on the league and the players' association to come up with a policy on this. (See CFL VP Matt Maychak's comments on the work the league is currently doing towards a policy.)

  • Three Stars: Bear Woods, Kendial Lawrence and John White light up the divisional semifinals

    Andrew Bucholtz at 55 Yard Line 3 days ago

    Moving on with our Three Stars series, here's a look at the top performers from the weekend's divisional semifinal games.

    (Honourable mentions:  Dexter McCoil, LB, Edmonton; Tyron Brackenridge, S, Saskatchewan; Jerald Brown, DB, Montreal.)

    (Honourable mentions: Tim Brown, PR/KR, B.C.; Sean Whyte, P/K, Montreal; Hugh O'Neill, P/K, Edmonton.)

    Third star/offensive player of the week: John White, running back, Edmonton Eskimos: White was about the only player who did much for Edmonton offensively Sunday, collecting 134 rushing yards on 19 carries (an average of 7.1 yards per carry). The Utah alumnus has been a big part of the Eskimos' offence down the stretch, and it's a little surprising they didn't feature him even more against the Riders given the cold condition. He excelled in the chances he got, though, and he'll be an important piece for them again against the Stampeders. 

  • Riders can't pull off comeback against Esks' D and special teams, but had a big non-call on PI

    Andrew Bucholtz at 55 Yard Line 4 days ago

    The Edmonton Eskimos managed to prove Sunday that you can win in the CFL without offensive scoring. In an 18-10 win over the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the West semifinal, the Eskimos scored three field goals and two rouges, plus a return touchdown from Kendial Lawrence. That wasn't even a dominant special teams performance, as kicker Hugh O'Neill was only three for five on field goals on the day (but he did add two singles on missed FGs and one on a punt, so that's something, at least). The Eskimos also let the Riders hang around until the dying moments despite an incredible array of Saskatchewan turnovers, and that was mostly thanks to their own offence's struggles. They could have even potentially seen the game tied on a late Saskatchewan drive, where what appeared to be pass interference by the Edmonton defence wasn't detected either by the on-field officials or by the replay booth following a challenge from Riders' head coach Corey Chamblin. In the end, though, the Eskimos did enough to hang on for the win, and they'll take on Calgary in a Battle of Alberta West Final next week. 

  • Alouettes stomp Lions 50-17, and final score flattered a dismal B.C. team with big issues

    Andrew Bucholtz at 55 Yard Line 4 days ago

    It's quite something when a 50-17 final score is flattering to the loser, but that's exactly what happened with the Montreal Alouettes' East semifinal win over the B.C. Lions Sunday. This one easily could have been even more of a blowout, as the Lions put on a display of football even worse than anything the 2-16 Ottawa Redblacks showed this season. Their vaunted defence was okay at the start, but got run over in the second half, and their offensive ineptitude was utterly staggering. The loss means B.C. won't get a chance to compete in a home Grey Cup this year, ending the three-year streak of home Grey Cup victories the Lions started in 2011, but even more notably, it may indicate that big offseason changes could be ahead for the team. A close-fought loss would have been one thing, but rolling over and playing dead like this in a matchup they had an excellent chance to win and continuing their season-ending slide suggests that there are some big problems in B.C., and ones that won't be easily fixed.