Brian Towriss, head coach of the Huskies football team

Towriss ready for record 33rd season at the helm of Huskies football program

He has won more games than any coach in Canadian university football history and is the longest-serving active coach in the country. But as Brian Towriss prepares to begin his record 33rd season as head coach of the University of Saskatchewan Huskies, he still gets that twinkle in his eye like it was his first.

By James Shewaga

On Friday, his Huskies will kick off the 2016 season by battling the Regina Rams at Griffiths Stadium in PotashCorp Park, on Support Our Troops night. And rest assured, Towriss will have the Huskies ready to roll.

“The home opener is always special,” he said. “We should have a big crowd again and we love playing at Griffiths Stadium, so any time we get to trot out here, it’s a lot of fun. And I can tell you, everyone is looking forward to it.”

Towriss began his association with the Huskies more than four decades ago as an all-star player back in 1974, before turning to coaching and becoming one of the youngest head coaches in the country 10 years later. Now at the age of 60, the Moose Jaw native continues to build on a remarkable resume that features a record 191 career regular-season and playoff victories, 11 league titles, eight Canada West conference coach of the year awards and three Vanier Cup national championships.

“Someone around here in university administration, they made a great decision when they hired him, this young guy who wasn’t proven,” said Huskie defensive co-ordinator Ed Carleton, who has been with Towriss longer than anyone with a combined 29 seasons as a player or coach at the U of S. “His record speaks for itself. And when you look around this coaching room, there’s not a guy in here who didn’t play for this team and that’s part of the loyalty in giving back to the program. And it’s in no small part due to that man who has given us all that he has.”

Towriss became the winningest head coach in Canadian Interuniversity Sport football history in 2011 when he notched his 170th career victory at the helm of the Huskies. Under Towriss, the Huskies have produced a remarkable 71 all-Canadians and sent a plethora of players to the professional ranks, including three-time Grey Cup champion Scott Flory who returned to the team three years ago to serve as offensive co-ordinator.

“He deserves all the accolades and everything he gets,” said Flory, a two-time Vanier Cup champion with the Huskies who went on to play 15 seasons in the Canadian Football League with the Montreal Alouettes. “The foundation of the football program that he built here and just the basis and the premise on which we operate, without a doubt it set me personally on a path for success.

“And I’m not the only one. There are a lot of guys who have had success coming through this program and have gone on to do great things professionally. For me personally, it was one of the reasons why I came back, because I had so much respect for him and the program.”

While the wins and championships are easy to document, it’s the personal connections that he makes that means the most to players like fifth-year senior Brayden Twarynski, one of 22 academic All-Canadians (for averages of 80 per cent or better) on last year’s Huskies football team.

“It has been almost a father-like influence,” said Twarynski, who came from Calgary to play for Towriss. “Since I have known him, it’s been one thing that has kind of resonated with me. The passion that he has for the sport and the program, he is here all the time and he’s always willing to talk to the guys and you can just tell with everything he does, he’s a special guy to play for. How he carries himself definitely resonates in the locker room and it rubs off on all the guys.”

Off the field, Towriss earned Saskatchewan’s highest honour back in 2007 when he received the Order of Merit recognizing individuals who have made a significant contribution to the province. Last year he was again recognized for a career in coaching, earning Sask Sport’s Male Coach Dedication Award. He has become an icon on campus and has carved out a living legacy of success that is unmatched from coast-to-coast.

“I don’t throw around the term legend easily, but I think BT, as everyone knows him, he’s the consummate professional and he’s well-respected across the CIS by colleagues in all corners of CIS sport,” said Huskies athletic director Basil Hughton.

“For him, every new year is exactly that: It’s Happy New Year and it is time to get back at it,” he said.

For Towriss, that means getting back to the Vanier Cup for the first time since 2006. And with a veteran team bolstered by a bevy of blue-chip recruits, Towriss is determined to lead the Huskies back there again this year.

“It’s been 10 years since we played in the national championship, and for a 15-year period before that we were in there almost every second year,” said Towriss. “So we desperately want to get back there. We’ve got a good football team and what matters to us right now is the next nine weeks. And we can’t wait to get started.”

Huskie Highlights

  • The U of S Huskie women’s soccer team continues pre-season play on Saturday at noon when they take to the pitch to face a Huskie alumni team at PotashCorp Park.
  • The Huskie men’s soccer team is on the road this week battling the Calgary Dinos and Mount Royal Cougars to kick off their regular-season schedule. Former Huskie men’s soccer standout Brett Levis made history last week when he became the first U of S player to sign a Major League Soccer contract, agreeing to a multi-year deal with Vancouver Whitecaps FC. Levis, a 23-year-old left back from Saskatoon, played for the Huskies from 2011 to 2014.
  • The Huskie men’s volleyball team, under new interim head coach Joel Dyck, is currently in Japan facing the country’s top university teams in an exhibition tour that runs until Sept. 5.
  • Former Huskie women’s basketball player Erica Gavel will suit up for Canada’s women’s wheelchair basketball team in the Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro starting on Sept. 8. Gavel, a 25-year-old Prince Albert product who played for the Huskies from 2009-2012, is joined on the national team by assistant coach Katie Miyazaki, who played at the U of S from 2010-2012. Former longtime Huskie trainer and massage therapist Al Bodnarchuk is also a part of the Canadian medical staff at the Paralympics.

Huskies at Home

The upcoming home games for Huskie Athletics teams for the next month

Friday, September 2
Football: Huskies vs. Regina Rams, at Griffiths Stadium, 7 pm

Saturday, September 3
Women’s Soccer: Huskies vs. alumni, at PotashCorp Park, noon (exhibition)

Friday, September 9
Men’s Soccer: Huskies vs. McEwan Griffins, at PotashCorp Park, 12:30 pm

Saturday, September 10
Women’s Soccer: Huskies vs. Trinity Western Spartans, at PotashCorp Park, noon

Sunday, September 11
Women’s Soccer: Huskies vs. Fraser Valley Cascades, at PotashCorp Park, noon
Men’s Soccer: Huskies vs. Alberta Golden Bears, at PotashCorp Park, 2:15 pm

Friday, September 16
Football: Huskies vs. Calgary Dinos, at Griffiths Stadium, 7 pm

Friday, September 23
Men’s Soccer: Huskies vs. Trinity Western Spartans, at PotashCorp Park, 12:30 pm

Sunday, September 25
Men’s Soccer: Huskies vs. Fraser Valley Cascade, at PotashCorp Park, 2:15 pm

Saturday, October 1
Cross Country: Sled Dog Open, at Saskatoon’s Victoria Park.
Women’s Soccer: Huskies vs. Calgary Dinos, at PotashCorp Park, noon
Men’s Soccer: Huskies vs. Winnipeg Wesmen, at PotashCorp Park, 2:15 pm

Sunday, October 2
Women’s Soccer: Huskies vs. Lethbridge Pronghorns, at PotashCorp Park, noon
Men’s Soccer: Huskies vs. Winnipeg Wesmen, at PotashCorp Park, 2:15 pm

Friday, October 7
Men’s Hockey: Huskies vs. UBC Thunderbirds, at Rutherford Rink, 7 pm

Saturday, October 8
Men’s Hockey: Huskies vs. UBC Thunderbirds, at Rutherford Rink, 7 pm

Sunday, October 9
Women’s Soccer: Huskies vs. Regina Cougars, at PotashCorp Park, noon