By Devin Jones
The Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) organization announced its new CEO Graham Brown, at a press conference held at the Mattamy Athletic Centre (MAC) Thursday.
Brown — formerly the president and CEO of Rugby Canada — will be taking over day-to-day operations of the organization, a task previously held by Pierre Lafontaine. With the search for a new leader taking place over the last few months, Brown was chosen based in part on his ability to turn Rugby Canada into a prominent program within the Canadian sporting landscape.
“My vision is pretty simple, I want the CIS to operate as one of the top sporting organizations in Canada,” said Brown. “We have a chance now to build sport in Canada at the university level and partner with everyone who’s involved with that, and I can tell you how proud I am that every single sport is represented here.”
Touted as a “builder” by the CIS’s chair of directors Mike Mahon, Brown has transformed the face of Rugby Canada since taking over in 2002. Taking the program from a staff of three with a small operating budget of $2 million, Brown has turned the teams into prominent programs on the world stage of rugby.
Brown spoke at length about raising the profile of Canadian university sports, putting them on par with professional leagues throughout the country. He stated that raising the profile of CIS begins with solidifying the student-athlete experience and making it “paramount”.
“The student-athlete experience is going to be paramount, just as it is with any national team or high performance athletes,” said Brown. “I always use the phrase ‘coach led, player focused,’ so we will maintain that focus on our student athletes, but we need to make a commitment to their experience as a student athlete is a good one.”
The announcement of a new CEO also included talk about a shift in how CIS governs itself. Now being called a “strategic board model,” consisting of four university presidents, various athletic directors and previous CEO Lafontaine, it was said that the board would have no involvement with day-to-day operations. Instead, the board will focus on the bigger picture for CIS and the future of the organization.
In terms of Brown’s relationship with Ryerson going forward, he spoke to the strides Ryerson has made in relation to elevating the Rams brand and achieving national recognition. Brown also emphasized the fact that he needs to have a relationship with all 52 universities across the country, but appreciates, “the organizations that are making sport a priority, and Ryerson is certainly one of them.”