Dean of Canadian coaches
Towriss a natural fit for Hall after 33 years with Huskies
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.”