The University of Saskatchewan’s main campus is situated on Treaty 6 Territory and the Homeland of the Métis.

Who’s calling the shots here? Business man and ex-Huskie’s influence goes well beyond the wallet

By in Sports & Health
David Dube (right).
Despite the idea of private ownership constantly surrounding the University of Saskatchewan Huskies football team, Huskie Athletics says it is something that has never seriously been considered.

“One of the big debates is should the program be part of student services, should it be part of the College of Kinesiology or do you move to this outside partnership to run it?” said Dogs head coach Brian Towriss. “There’s probably four or five guys that would partner and be part of an ownership group but right now I don’t think that’s part of anybody’s [agenda].

“It’s something that’s probably been tossed around but never seriously been sat down and discussed,” he added, but “I think the university wants to maintain control.”

The Huskies’ athletic director Basil Hughton echoed this statement.

“The model that we operate under works well.”

The Huskies football team is controlled by Huskie Athletics but relies heavily on donor support. Huskie Athletics is a part of the College of Kinesiology and is a representative of the entire university. This system does not allow the team to have an individual owner.

One of the only teams in Canadian Interuniversity Sport that follows a private-based form of ownership is the Laval Rouge et Or, who have won five of the last eight Vanier Cups.

According to the Queen’s University student newspaper, The Queen’s Journal, “The Rouge et Or have the highest operating budget in Canadian University Sport” because their “13 varsity teams are treated as individual clubs that operate as autonomous units within the Athletics framework.

“Though the 13 clubs have a combined operating budget of about $5 million, only $500,000 comes from the Athletics department. Each club has its own president, board of directors and head of fundraising to seek out private sponsorship.”

Local businessman David Dube recently told Bridges, a weekly Saskatoon newspaper, that if the Huskies football team “was a business I would buy it in a second.”

He is one of the team’s top supporters and his donations, valuing over $1 million, have made Huskies’ home games the most electrifying in the team’s history and help draw in record crowds. These donations include the new stands at Griffiths Stadium, the equipment in the weight room of the team’s new clubhouse and the fireworks at every home game.

Some believe, however, that Dube’s involvement with the team’s game day operations — which have included public statements on behalf of the team — have overstepped the boundaries of a sponsor and have perplexed the issue of who exactly represents the football team and the university.

Dube was unavailable to comment for this article.

At the Dogs’ home opening game this season, Dube organized what was termed the “Support Our Troops” game. The team welcomed Canadian Forces members to attend the game, thanking them for their service to the country by raising money for the Soldier On Fund — a fund that provides grants to injured or ill CF members in order to assist in their rehabilitation.

The players wore specially designed jerseys that featured camouflage trim and nameplates that replaced the players’ names in favour of words associated with the ethos of the Canadian Forces: duty, integrity, courage, honour, loyalty, country and service.

Dube organized the "Support Our Troops" game on behalf of the Huskies.

Along with this, the forces displayed military equipment at the stadium gates.

Some in the university community had a problem with this display.

“Honouring veterans is well-meaning, but the problem is that politics should not get mixed into sports,” said Robert Calder, a professor emeritus of English at the University of Saskatchewan who attends every Huskies’ football home game.

Calder is the author of Saskatchewan Roughriders: a first 100 years as well as a book about British writers in World War II propaganda. He was worried about the message sent by the display of weaponry at a football game.

“Canadians generally don’t know what kind of sacrifices soldiers make and people need to be reminded of that, but that is not parading around military hardware” at a football game.

Even the Huskies director was not happy to see the military equipment.

“I was all for the support, thanking and recognition of the people, but I would have wished that we didn’t have a gun outside the entrance,” said Hughton.

He clarified, however, that despite his opinion, Huskie Athletics and Dube were not making statements on behalf of the university, its athletes or its students.

“That’s a personal opinion. That’s not [me] representing Huskie Athletics,” he said. “I would not even begin to suggest that we are speaking on behalf of the university or all Huskie Athletics’ team members. We’re not speaking on behalf of anyone.”

This is where opinions within the university differ.

“Huskie Athletics represent an entire institution with plenty of diverse opinions on the matter,” said Univeristy of Saskatchewan Students’ Union president Scott Hitchings. “Some people are not offended with the pro-military stance in and of itself, but when it is unnecessarily mixed with Huskie Athletics, it can become offensive to people who otherwise wouldn’t be offended.”

Regardless of whether the game’s display was right or wrong and if politics should or should not be mixed with sport, however, it showed that Dube has the ability to make statements on behalf of the team.

When asked whether or not Dube takes too active a role in terms of how his donations are spent — especially in comparison to the football team’s other significant donor, Ron Graham, who is much less visible — Hughton replied, “I can see where that would be the perception and I think in some ways that’s true, but people are different and have different passions and investments in their donations.”

Graham’s approximate $4 million worth of donations built the Huskies clubhouse and paid for the recent clubhouse expansion.

Hughton said that without either of the donors, Huskie Athletics would not be as strong as it is today.

“The biggest thing, bar none, is the scholarships [from donors or contributed to by donors] that allow us the opportunity to give athletic awards to our athletes, that allow us to recruit good student-athletes and that allows us to compete at a very high level in the Canada West” and in Canadian Interuniversity Sport.

Dube, a local businessman and philanthropist who contributes to many of the school’s athletics scholarships and also donates significantly to the Western College of Veterinary Medicine and the Nature Conservancy of Saskatchewan, was a receiver for the Huskies from 1982 to 1986.

Towriss is very thankful for Dube’s contributions to the team.

“We can’t thank him enough for everything that he’s done… People love coming here on Friday nights and he’s made it really great for our players,” said Towriss.

He added that Dube is a major reason why the Huskies are one of the few teams, along with Laval, who successfully market themselves.

“One thing that Laval’s done more than anybody else is that they’ve proved that Canadian college football is marketable. They’re getting 14 to 16 thousand fans per game,” said the coach. “We’re getting close. We’re probably averaging 6,500 fans this year… [and] part of it is the game day operations that David’s pushed forward. I’m sure that’s helping to drive our crowds.”

Dube has his own brand of Huskies’ football clothing that he sells separately from Huskie Athletics clothing. Merchandise with the “S” logo that the team occasionally wears and the alternative “U of S” logo featuring a sideways-facing Husky baring its teeth are sold by Dube. They are not available at Huskie Athletics’ stores.

“He thinks [the team] can be profitable,” said Towriss, emphasizing that despite this, Dube only has good intentions with the merchandise. “All the profits come back into our team.”

Hughton confirmed that Dube has never done anything to infringe upon the athletic program’s best interest.

“We run an athletic program that is 15 teams strong but we can’t do it without our donor support. All of the sports have individual donors. It just so happens that this particular donor is far more public.”


Photos: Raisa Pezderic

  • Shanny

    I’d like to know who wrote this piece… are they hiding from the by line?

    • Anonymous

      Oops. Post has been updated with proper credit. The writer is sports editor Kevin Menz.

  • huskies supporter

    It is great that there are people like this that donate significantly to the Huskies, however it would be nice if the other Huskies sports teams had some access to all of those new facilities that have been built…

    • Dog Fan

      Please tell me why they should have access? The football teams facilities are all result of private $ – and I mean all. The University has not put a dime into the football program. Why should other teams benefit from the generosity of Football Alumni.

      Hats off to Ron Graham and David Dube. Good work fellas!

    • Anonymous

      By “all” you mean some. Besides the fact that it’s on University land, maintenance provided by FMD, construction coordinated by corporate admin, … etc etc etc. Sure the vast majority of capital construction costs are from donors – who are not always associated with football – who want their funds to (understandably) goto a more visual cause at the University.

      I think what you’re advocating is to be entirely seperate from the greater University community – something I certainly wouldn’t support. I think the university should be centred around collaberation, and athletics should be exempt.

      If you want to be your own team out of the University, get off the land, drop the name, and shun university support of any kind.

    • DogFan0034

      How the hell could you possibly know what I think. By reading one paragraph that I wrote. I do not wish that the football program be a seperate entity from the University. I for one think it would be a mistake – plus it would make us more like the Rams down South and who would want that!

      Everyone at the University already has access to the stadium/field. I feel that other teams should not have access to the new weight room or meeting room. Again – why should they? Besides Alumni building the new facility it is also my understanding that Alumni, Ron Graham, Dube, other donors are paying all the operating costs. Until other teams start contributing – they should have no access.

  • Laurenceenixon

    I want to say that David Dube and Heather Ryan do more for the players of the Huskie football team than just sign cheques and market football. They are never shy to sit down with players to offer person advice and guidance. On top of that, they are both active in showing support for Huskie Athletic Council events and fundraisers.

    It is not Football’s fault that Football is a Saskatchewan institution and that one man, with the help of many, devotes his time to building a program that is profitable. The old Saskatchewan way of institutional ownership is the only thing holding the Huskie Football program from being completely self sufficient and profitable. Those profits have time and time again been shared with other teams eithi

    • Anonymous

      Laurence,

      Thanks for sharing your comments.

      You say that “The old Saskatchewan way of institutional ownership is the only thing holding the Huskie Football program from being completely self sufficient and profitable.” Kevin’s article points out that there are many who think the football team could be profitable and that this has led to interest in potential private ownership. However, at present, the team is still part of what you call the old Saskatchewan way of institutional ownership. Balancing private and public interests at an institution like the University of Saskatchewan is an interesting and ongoing process, so whether a donor is exercising outsized influence is well worth exploring. This is the only discussion Kevin’s piece was hoping to inspire.

  • Laurence Nixon

    There should be no issue with supporting the Canadian Armed Forces and using football to draw attention to those who have made the ultimate savrifice so that we can enjoy our freedoms, like the freedom to watch amateur athletes represent their province and University. This article is a naive look into the program and calls into question the loyalty and support of a true University of Saskatchewn alumnus.

  • Huskie Army

    I would like to applaud Dave Dube for his work!! He is a visionary who devotes hours to the program. His success in business is an inspiration to the team and the Huskies community. I am related to a Huskie alumni and watched my little brother matured into the leader and young professional he is today in part because of Dave and the lessons he instills on those close to him.

    Keep up the good work Dave Dube!!!

    GO HUSKIES!!!!

  • huskie fan

    Dave and Heather have been great supporters of Huskie Athletics not just the Football team, of course they will put more money into something that is their passion. But they have done a Great job giving money to all teams.

  • Anonymous

    In my opinion, Robert Calder, as a Professor emeritus in English with focus on propaganda, should know better than to use a sensationalized phrase like “parading around military hardware at a football game”. Aside from the fact that no parading occurred (although it’s a great idea for next year?), someone who is a published expert in propaganda should be the first to realize how a public statement like that could somewhat misrepresent the truth. Since Robert Calder was a longtime employee of the University, are we to take this statement as representative of the University’s opinion?

    Of course not. That would be making a mountain out of a mole hill, which is what most of this article seems to do.

    But as the article clarifies, the opinions being expressed only necessarily represent those expressing them. This includes the opinion of Student Union president Scott Hitchings, who expresses that “some people are not offended with the pro-military stance in and of itself, but when it is unnecessarily mixed with Huskie Athletics, it can become offensive to people who otherwise wouldn’t be offended”.

    Well…a few things. First, let’s establish something: I would suggest that most people (not “some”) support the military, and also support what was done at the Support Our Troops game. If most of our population didn’t support the military, it’s odd that our democratic society would continue to allow about $20 billion a year to be spent on it. If most people didn’t support the presentation at the Support Our Troops game, I propose that there would have been a lot more negative reaction and public outcry than what as been described in this article.

    Moving beyond that minor clarification, than sure, I think entirely possible that a small number of people could have been mildly offended by the camouflage, or the piece of artillery parked at the gate, or the fly-by. But suggesting that means they were inappropriate is a pretty big. It’s almost like suggesting a Huskie itself is an inappropriate school mascot. After all, Huskies are half-wolf, prone to uveitis, and often violent & aggressive when provoked. You can leave a baby next to unloaded artillery and not have to worry too much about it. Now imagine what would happen to a baby left next to an angry Huskie?

    You might think the resulting mental image is disturbing, unless you interpreted “angry Huskie” as referring to Peter Thiel, in which case you may have simply imagined him cuddling the baby & adopted it as his own son. But assuming you thought of what an angry wolf-dog would actually do to a child, then would you also take the next step, and suggest that the because a Huskie is capable of being violent & vicious, then it’s actions are representative of the University of Saskatchewan, and we should we therefore remove the Huskie statue from the entrance to Griffith stadium, to avoid offending people?

    No, of course not.

    So I propose that until the artillery blows up something innocent, or the planes in the fly-by drop bombs, or the players in camouflage start carrying snipers rifles into the stadium for use on second-and-long, then maybe the easily offended should chill out? After all, if you hadn’t been ignored or overruled when the mascots were being handed out, we could easily have ended up with something lame, like a Thunderbird, a Golden Bear or (worst of all) a Ram.

    I find the phrase “unnecessarily mixed” to be especially interesting. Since when does the University only mix what is necessary? Don’t we have sponsor logo’s at virtually every event, including all of those supported by the Student Union? We clearly support the “unnecessary mixing” of private, capitalist companies & corporations giving money to our public institution to advertise their products. So I’m not sure how it’s any more offensive or inappropriate to “unnecessarily mix” publicly supporting another public institution, like the Canadian Armed Forces?

    Personally, I greatly enjoyed the “Support Our Troops” game. I would love to see it repeated. In the future, I would love to see something like a “Support Our Nurses” game, or “Support Cancer Research” game. If anything, the University should be looking for ways to “unnecessarily mix” Huskie Athletics with recognition of outstanding causes, or our hardworking public employees, in all avenues. This type of thing should not be discouraged because a small minority of people are undoubtedly going to be offended by some aspect of any demonstration. If anything, we need more alumni like David Dube, who will take on the expense and initiative.

    Although I am dissecting the comments made in the article, I don’t intend it as disrespectful. I think the Professor Emeritus, the Athletic Director & Student Union president have made very reasonable, diplomatic statements overall. In my experience, public positions are often underpaid, under-appreciated jobs, that involved trying to please the majority while also being apologetic the minority. The two never seem to really agree with one another, so it can often be an exercise in futility. These individuals should be applauded for their efforts, not criticized.

    The main reason I felt compelled to comment on this article is this: I believe the biggest reason Huskie Football succeeds so consistently as a program is because it has found a way to near-ideally balance the strengths of a public institution, and a private investment model. It’s not just a good thing, it’s a great thing. I believe the University’s Athletic Administration does a great job in their roles. It’s also my opinion that the private supporters, like Graham and Dube, do an outstanding job in theirs. Their combined efforts have helped produce one of the finest experiences in Canadian University Sport.

    But the University of Saskatchewan can not allow itself to be left behind by being “close enough” to success to fail to justify the improvements it needs to make on a yearly basis in order to consistently stay competitive for national championships. They also cannot allow any kind of rift to develop between it’s public administrators, and private supporters. As long as the team stays publicly administrated, with guidance & leadership also provided by private sponsors, than a national football championship in the modern CIS will only come back to Huskie Football if if these groups work together in an ideal fashion.

    Doing anything less costs the team potential, and works against the “All In” philosophy that you can read on the wall anytime you walk into the Huskie locker room.

    There is only one way to the Cup, and it’s being all in.

    Please note that my opinion(s), including the opinion that “Rams, Cougars, and Golden Bears are lame mascots” represents only my own opinion(s). It is not in any way to be taken as representative of the University of Saskatchewan.

    But if you share any of my opinions, feel free to hit “like”

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