Dean of Cana­dian coaches

Towriss a nat­u­ral fit for Hall af­ter 33 years with Huskies

Moose Jaw Times Herald - - FRONT PAGE - RANDY PALMER

If you talk uni­ver­sity foot­ball in Saskatchewan and suc­cess­ful teams, the con­ver­sa­tion will in­vari­ably turn to the Uni­ver­sity of Saskatchewan Huskies and long-time head coach Brian Towriss.

And for a good rea­son, too — you don’t get called the dean of Cana­dian foot­ball coaches with­out putting to­gether a leg­endary le­gacy.

Which is pre­cisely why the Moose Jaw and District Sports Hall of Fame came call­ing this fall.

Towriss was one of six in­ductees en­shrined on the Hall dur­ing the re­cent in­duc­tion ban­quet, with his photo and ac­com­plish­ments in­stalled on the Wall of Fame on the sec­ond floor con­course of Mo­saic Place.

It should come as no sur­prise it wasn’t his first call to a Hall— the Sasakatchewan Sports Hall of Fame in­ducted Towriss all the way back in 2003, and he was in­ducted into the Cana­dian Foot­ball Hall of Fame ear­lier this year.

But the most re­cent recog­ni­tion was the one Towriss savoured the most.

“This is prob­a­bly the big­gest honour for me,” he said. “The Cana­dian Foot­ball Hall of Fame, that’s ob­vi­ously the pin­na­cle our ca­reer, but I didn’t know any­one there. Tonight, we’re go­ing to have lots of our fam­ily and friends here, old team­mates and old coaches and stuff. It’s re­ally, re­ally spe­cial and it’s an honour to be in­ducted in Moose Jaw.”

There’s lit­tle ques­tion it’s heav­ily de­served.

Towriss joined the Huskies in 1979 as an as­sis­tant coach with the Uni­ver­sity of Saskatchewan Huskies and took over as head coach in 1984. That be­gan a coach­ing in­sti­tu­tion al­most un­heard of in any sport in the coun­try — for 33 years he pa­trolled the side­lines, com­pil­ing a record of 196-118-1 and be­com­ing the win­ningest coach in Cana­dian Uni­ver­sity foot­ball his­tory. That record nat­u­rally brought with it plenty of suc­cess.

The Huskies reached the Vanier Cup na­tional cham­pi­onship nine times in his ten­ure, win­ning it three times (1990, 1996, 1998). That in ad­di­tion to 11 Hardy Cup wins, four Mitchell Bowl and Churchill Bowl ti­tles and two At­lantic Bowl wins.

Through it all, it was the very first Vanier Cup win that Towriss pointed to as the great­est mo­ment of his coach­ing ca­reer.

“I re­ally think win­ning the first na­tional cham­pi­onship in 1990, it had never been done at the school be­fore and that group of kids that won it had re­ally com­mit­ted them­selves about three years ear­lier and turned the pro­gram around,” he ex­plained. “We got to the con­fer­ence fi­nal and lost there, then we got to the Vanier Cup and lost the Vanier Cup and the third year we came back with pri­mar­ily the same team and won it.

“That was re­ally re­ward­ing, they were all Saskatchewan kids, too which was nice. There might have been two kids on that team that were from out of prov­ince.”

The in­ter­est­ing part of all that suc­cess was the level of in­tegrity the Huskies pro­gram car­ried through­out Towriss’ time with the team — aca­demic stan­dards were high and char­ac­ter de­vel­op­ment was al­ways a pri­or­ity.

That all added to the amount of re­spect Towriss earned from his fel­low coaches and played a ma­jor role in the kind of le­gacy he car­ries to­day.

In to­tal, Towriss coached 71 All-Cana­di­ans, had 160 play­ers named to the Huskie and/or All-Cana­dian Aca­demic Teams and helped 47 play­ers reach the CFL. He ac­cu­mu­lated seven Canada West Coach of the Year awards and the U of S Coach of the Year award in 1989. The Gov­ern­ment of Saskatchewan pre­sented the Or­der of Merit to Brian in 2007 for his out­stand­ing con­tri­bu­tion to the prov­ince and its cit­i­zens.

“We tried to do things the right way, we tried to be hon­est,” Towriss said. “We didn’t break any rules and treated our op­po­nents with re­spect. To me, that’s the way the game should be played. Peo­ple say­ing (pos­i­tive) things, that’s nice and it’s re­ward­ing, but there’s great foot­ball in this prov­ince and will con­tinue to be for a long time.”

While living in Saskatoon, Towriss has con­tin­ued to main­tain ties with Moose Jaw. He’s con­ducted count­less foot­ball player and coach­ing camps over the year and ac­tively re­cruited the top play­ers from the area.

“I haven’t lived here for 40 years but we tried to get back here when­ever we could,” Towriss said. “My fam­ily was here, my mom and dad were here, they’ve both passed now but my brother and sis­ter are still here. We came down ev­ery fall and ev­ery spring to re­cruit and we’ve stayed very close to the city. I still have a num­ber of close friends here, too, and we’re go­ing to have a lot of fun tonight.”

While he re­tired from coach­ing the Huskies in 2016, Towriss is still ac­tive in the game and hasn’t ruled out get­ting fully back into the coach­ing ranks.

“I went to train­ing camp at the Uni­ver­sity of Guelph (this spring) and will prob­a­bly go back there for spring camp or train­ing camp or some­place,” he said. “I haven’t ruled out go­ing back to work yet, but it’ll have to be the right sit­u­a­tion. I’m pretty com­fort­able in Saskatoon, we’ve lived there for a long time, but you never say never. If the right op­por­tu­nity came up, we may look at it.”

RANDY PALMER/TIMES-HER­ALD

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