Faculty fan has been to all eight Huskie appearances in the Vanier Cup
By David Hutton
When the U of S Huskies football team lost in the Vanier Cup final last month, family and friends who had made the trip to Hamilton, Ont. from the West applauded the team’s effort and made their way down to the field – mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, girlfriends, and wives embraced their Huskies.
“Hold your head high,” shouted one Huskie player’s father. “We’re still proud.”
Sitting in the stands was a man with no personal connection to the team – and he was just as proud.
Few people have made the cross-country trek to be at every single Vanier Cup in which the Huskies have competed. Head coach Brian Towriss is one and U of S commerce professor Graham Links is another.
He’s been through every fumble and every recovery, every touchdown and every interception; he was there for the three uplifting victories at Toronto’s SkyDome and, with this year’s defeat, the five disappointing losses.
But, you see, Links doesn’t see them as losses.
“The losses are disappointing, sure,” he says. “But you have to be proud of the season they had. This is a fantastic football program. So many of the players go on to become teachers and coaches – important members of our community. They’re strong people and good students. That’s what matters.”
Links began following the Huskies closely in 1989 when they competed in their first Vanier Cup, a 35-10 loss to the Western Mustangs. The 24-23 loss this season to Wilfrid Laurier was his eighth Vanier Cup.
“I try to co-ordinate their fall schedule with mine,” says Links, a professor at the U of S since 1974, the year Brian Towriss began as a Commerce student.
“Towriss and I started at the University together. I don’t think I ever taught him but I’ve certainly followed his career since.”
Links’ office is papered with Huskie paraphernalia. His office door dons a ‘Go Huskies Go’ sign while the desktop background of his computer is a collage of Huskie photos. Posters of the 1990 and 1996 Vanier Cup wins are proudly displayed on the wall.
“I was lucky enough to be at the first Vanier Cup and have been a fan ever since,” he says. “That game was a real learning experience for everybody. The team was blown away by the Jumbotron, a lot of them got caught standing on the bench and looking at it.
“But they all really dedicated themselves to coming back and have established the working culture that has defined the Huskies’ program after that first loss.”
Links returned to SkyDome the following year and witnessed the Huskies’ first Vanier Cup victory, a thrilling 24-21 win over St. Mary’s.
He has taken six cross-country flights since, spending time each trip visiting with his brother in Hamilton and his son in Windsor.
During the regular season over the past 16 years, he has travelled to most out-of-town games and bundled up in his reserved seat at Griffiths’ Stadium for home games.
Along the way has fostered a friendship with several generations of Huskies’ families and friends.
“I’ve gotten to know the parents more than the kids,” he says. “But I’ve taught a lot of the kids as well.
“Phil Guebert, Brian Guebert’s uncle, was a master’s student of mine and Dan Farthing lived down the block,” he says. “Both my sons were serious football players at (Walter) Murray (collegiate) and were involved with Towriss at the summer training program.”
When the playoffs begin for the Huskies, Links’ teaching wardrobe goes through a dramatic change.
“I always wear a Huskies T-shirt to class come playoff time as opposed to my shirt and tie, so the students must know something’s going on.”
Next season, with the Vanier Cup coming to Saskatoon for the first time, Links hopefully won’t have to travel quite as far to watch the Huskies in action.
“I’m grateful the game is here in town,” he says. “I’m not going to be working for much longer and don’t know how many more games I’ll be travelling to. We’ll see.”
David Hutton is a student intern in the U of S Office of Research Communications.