Jason Arakgi

Draft History

View the complete BC Lions Canadian Draft history through 2012.

A Brief History of the CFL Canadian Draft

Jamall Lee
Jamall Lee
2009 CFL Draft pick

The annual college draft has proven to be a valuable source of Canadian football talent for the Canadian Football League, but it went through a number of organizational changes over the years before it became the stable operation it is today.

Prior to 1953, college players were assigned to member Clubs on the basis of territorial rights. In 1953, the first draft involved only the four eastern teams – Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto and Hamilton – with the selection limited to players from five eastern universities, specifically McGill, Queen’s, Toronto, Western Ontario and McMaster. Out west, where there were only a few universities competing, territorial rights continued to prevail.

By 1956, the four eastern and five western Clubs started serious discussions about the formation of a single league in Canada. Thus, the Canadian Football Council was created, which later evolved into the present day Canadian Football League. Among the council recommendations was a national draft in which all nine Clubs participated. The first such draft was held in 1956 and continued until 1959.

In 1960, an argument occurred over the paucity of draftable talent from the western universities, and the reluctance of many eastern draftees to move west to join the drafting team. There were only four western Canadian universities playing football at that time, namely UBC, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba, so the BC, Edmonton, Saskatchewan and Winnipeg Clubs were awarded rights to those players. Since Calgary did not have a university, the Stampeders were allowed to continue to participate in the eastern draft, continuing through 1961 and 1962.

In 1963, the list of draft candidates was expanded to include all degree-granting schools in Canada, so all nine CFL Clubs again participated on the basis of the waiver priority. There continued to be disputes over the eligibility of certain players to be drafted until the current set of draft rules was established in 1970.

Paris Jackson
Paris Jackson
2003 CFL Draft pick

Up to this point, only players attending Canadian schools were eligible for the draft. If a Canadian player attended school in the U.S., he belonged to the Club in which territory he was domiciled. In 1973, it was agreed to extend the draft to include Canadians attending schools outside of Canada, although each Club was permitted to exempt from the draft and retain territorial rights on two players from its area, whether they attended schools inside or outside of Canada.

The right of a Club to exempt two territorial players from the draft was terminated after the 1984 season.

The 1985 Draft was the first conducted on the current basis.

The site of the annual draft also went through a transition process. Until 1969, it was an item on the League’s Annual Meeting agenda, with the doors open to the media during this part of the meeting. It may be noted that in those days, the draft was something of a lottery, as illustrated by the following extract from the minutes of the 1969 Annual Meeting:

“…It was pointed out that while the Commissioner’s office had distributed the information as it was received from the colleges there could be no guarantee that the players listed were in fact eligible for the current draft, or that other players not listed were not eligible. Consequently, a Club would select at its own risk. If the player selected was eligible, such selection would supersede all other claims for that player’s service. If he was not eligible the selection would be meaningless…”

Consequently, the draft became a function of the General Managers Committee at its Annual Meeting. An ad hoc committee met with CIAU officials to develop a more accurate information system, which gradually improved to the present.

Commencing in 1985, the draft became a theatrical production similar to the Academy Awards with the first few rounds on national television. This proved to be very costly, with the expenses of hiring a hall and flying players to the site, so it was discontinued after the 1995 draft, to be replaced by the current telephone conference method.

The college player cannot play in the League without being subject to the draft.

The player shall be declared eligible for the draft only once in his career.

The player must qualify as a non-import.