SASKATOON EXPRESS - December 26-31, 2016 - Page 2 JW122614 James
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Brian Towriss coached the U of S Huskies for 33 years. (Photo by Darren Steinke)
Towriss forced out as U of S football coach
hen it was announced Stoicheff, was scheduled to begin the University of its work last month. Saskatchewan had Soon after, Huskies athletic diformed a Huskie Athletics rector Basil Hughton announced advisory board of trustees, my his retirement. Last week, Towfirst thought was Brian Towriss riss stood in front of the media would no longer be the football to announce he was stepping coach. down after those 33 years as head I am confident in saying at coach. There is a pattern here. least one person on the 11-person I don’t get out of the office board wanted Towriss out. nearly enough for news conferWith a six-to-five split beences. I didn’t want to miss this tween members of the public and one because I had a feeling the Editor employees of the university on announcement was going to perthe board, I fear Huskie Athletics is now be- tain to Towriss’ future with a program. Was ing run by a citizen or a small group of them. he going to be fired? It is the first board of its type in Canada. I I had one question prepared: “What was find that interesting in itself. the role of the advisory board in making this Members of the board are David Dube, decision?” Diane Jones Konihowski, Tom Anselmi, Right off the hop, an emotional Towriss David Sutherland, Shelley Brown and announced he was stepping down. A month Ken Juba. U of S representatives are Patti earlier, Towriss told The StarPhoenix he McDougall, Greg Fowler, Debra Pozega Os- would be back in 2017 unless someone burn, Chad London and Peta Bonham-Smith. thought otherwise. U of S president Peter Stoicheff appointed Clearly, someone or a group of someones Dube as the first chair of the advisory board. thought otherwise. Dube is a businessperson, philanthropist, I changed my question. member of the U of S board of governors “Was the decision yours, Brian?” and long-time supporter of Huskie Athletics. He stumbled, but toed the company line. Dube has sunk a lot of money into the Neither Stoicheff nor London, the dean of football program. He is responsible for some the College of Kinesiology, were in attenof the special uniforms the team wears and dance to pay tribute to their departing coach. funds game-day promotions. They have be- That seemed odd. come spectacular events. I am sure Towriss I had a phone call when I returned to the loved being part of them. office, confirming what I suspected. A tweet Dube made it clear when the board of from an insider, since deleted, said people trustees was announced that change was long are being naïve if they believed Towriss was overdue at the U of S. leaving of his own volition. “Do you have the same cellphone as you Not to be lost and buried any deeper in had 20 years ago? I doubt it,” Dube said. this story is the impressive run Towriss had “I’m sure you don’t fly in a 100-year-old on the football field. More importantly was airplane, or a 100-year-old car. This was a his enrichment of the lives of so many stu100-year-old governance model.” dent athletes. It’s not fair to summarize those And you don’t play football for a 60-year- in three paragraphs. old coach who has been in the job for 33 Under Towriss, the Huskies won three years, apparently. Vanier Cups — all in the 1990s — and lost The advisory board, which reports to the final six times. The team won the Hardy
Cup, emblematic of the Canada West championship, 11 times. Towriss holds the national record in wins by a football coach at 196 and has coached the most games in university football with 315. His winning percentage is up there with Wally Buono’s. Buono is winningest coach in Canadian Football League history. During his tenure, 154 Huskies have been named conference all-stars, 71 All-Canadians and 160 to a Huskie or national all-academic team. He has coached 47 players who went on to play in the CFL, according to statistics the U of S provided. Not bad for a big lug from Moose Jaw who toiled on the Huskies’ defensive line in the 1970s. Hughton said the search for a new coach will begin immediately. An interim coach will be named in the New Year. I suspect Hughton, who is retiring in June 2017, will play a role in naming the interim coach, but will be cut out of the process when it comes to hiring a permanent one. Will there be a need for an athletic director, or are there 11? I’m guessing Hughton didn’t want to be a puppet, and would never agree to fire his friend of 50-plus years. I’ve been told a board member has talked with one candidate. Scott Flory, currently a Huskie assistant coach, will be one of the contenders, although there will be a national competition for the job. It’s one of the most prestigious jobs in Canadian football thanks, in a big way, to Towriss and the classy organization he led. The new coach will have to have name recognition. That will be important to the person or group making the hire. The plan is to elevate the U of S to the status of perennial-champion Laval. The U of S and Laval battled it out in the early to mid-2000s, playing a couple of classic games. Since then, the Huskies have fallen on leaner times. Some will say it was time for a change, but that’s not the point here. On Dec. 19, 2016, it came with a price.
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