By Gregory B. Fulton
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, being 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, which arrangement continued in 1961 and
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.
Up to this point, only players attending Canadian schools were eligible for the draft. If a
Canadian player attended school in the U.S.A. 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
The right of a Club to exempt two territorial players from the draft was terminated after the
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
Consequently, the draft became a function of the General Managers Committee at its Annual
Meeting. An ad hoc committee (Norm Kimball and myself) 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 net result is that the League's By-laws now provide strict guidelines to the effect that, inter
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.