The new chief athletics officer for Huskie Athletics at the University of Saskatchewan (USask) is relishing the challenge of taking the athletic program to a whole new level.
“I am interested in working for organizations that want to get better and here they want to be No.1 in U Sports, so that excites me,” said Hardy, who started at USask on Aug. 12.
“Huskie Athletics has a great tradition and history and I am proud to be part of the program.”
A USask alum and former member of the Huskie men’s basketball team, Hardy went on to coach the Saskatoon Hilltops to two national junior football championships over 10 years, earning induction into both the Saskatoon and Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame. Hardy also served as superintendent in the Saskatoon Catholic School Board and as president of Vancouver College, overseeing an athletic facility fundraising campaign that topped the $20-million mark.
“My whole life has been spent in athletics and education, and management and administration, so it’s a great fit,” said Hardy.
Hardy knows the heart of the program are the student-athletes and coaches, and is determined to improve support systems for the teams and enhance the game-day experience for Huskie fans.
“We want to do all we can to support our student-athletes and that is our No.1 priority,” said Hardy. “We also want to put as many resources as we can into the hands of our coaches. And from a business perspective, we want to create a great game-day experience, and one of the real challenges here is to try to more fully engage the student body.”
With football at Griffiths Stadium and hockey at Merlis Belsher Place drawing solid crowds, Hardy would like to turn the PAC into a hot-bed for Huskie Athletics as well.
“We’ve got revenue-generating sports in football and hockey and I think in the near future we have to build our court sports,” he said. “There is a long and storied tradition of success with all four of our court sport programs, that includes 25 Canada West titles between them. I think we have to spend a little more energy in promoting our basketball and volleyball, and we have to look at improving the atmosphere in the venue to enhance the game-day experience.
“Our long-term goal is to increase promotion and support for all of our sports, as all 400 of our student-athletes deserve the support of our student body and of our community. We would love to hang the sold-out sign at all Huskie events.”
Hardy would also like to reinvest in recruitment, helping Huskie coaches land the top student-athletes in the country.
“Recruiting is probably more of a challenge today in U Sports than it has ever been,” he said. “What we want to do in Huskie Athletics is put together a recruiting package that will help the coaches, that promotes this great province of Saskatchewan, this great city of Saskatoon, and this great University of Saskatchewan. We have a great history with Huskie Athletics and we want to continue to build that legacy.”
Last, but certainly not least, Hardy is determined to bolster corporate sponsorship and community support for the Huskies.
“Any publicly funded institution today requires the support of the private sector, and part of my responsibility is to get out in the community with the message that we want to be No.1 and we want the community to be a big part of it,” he said. “There’s no question that resources are needed, and I’m comfortable telling that story. And there is a great story to be told with Huskie Athletics.”
Sean McKay took over as the new head coach of USask’s men’s volleyball team on Aug. 9, replacing Nathan Bennett, who moved on to the University of Fraser Valley. McKay led the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology Trojans to a 51-21 record over three seasons, guiding the Trojans to the Alberta college championship in 2018. “I am extremely excited to immerse myself in a volleyball and sports community as strong as that of the university and province of Saskatchewan. I look forward to learning from those involved in the Huskies’ storied history,” said McKay, whose Huskies open the season Oct. 18 in Calgary versus the Dinos.
Hunter Lee of the Huskies men’s wrestling team won a bronze medal at the junior world championships in Estonia on Aug. 14. Lee is a 19-year-old student in the College of Education.