Significant developments in Canada West governance were lost in the shuffle in October, when conference members voted during a special meeting to cancel the remainder of the 2020-2021 season amid the pandemic.
Among the overshadowed news items is Curtis Atkinson, director of athletics and recreation for Thompson Rivers University, accepting a nomination to become president of Canada West.
That role traditionally comes along with appointment to the U Sports board of directors, which includes four university presidents and four athletics directors, with equal representation from each regional association — Canada West, Ontario University Athletics, Réseau du sport étudiant du Québec and Atlantic University Sport.
Atkinson, previously vice-president of Canada West, joined the U Sports board of directors as an officer for a two-year term, news announced on Monday (Nov. 16) in a press release.
Neither of the positions comes with a bonus in pay, but they do feature added responsibility and time commitments, a trade most would consider a raw deal.
Atkinson, 43, said he has no interest in resume-building and wants to spend the rest of his working life at the helm of TRU WolfPack sports, assuring KTW there are no clandestine career angles in play.
The jobs — which put him in the engine rooms of 56 U Sports member schools, 17 of which are in Canada West — offer opportunity to learn, grow, exchange perspectives and develop insight and relationships that should make him better at the gig he holds in Kamloops, he said.
“I have to listen to the 16 other schools,” Atkinson said. “I can’t just take a TRU perspective forward. But I like to think it’s positive for TRU in that I’m, at the very least, involved with conversations that could influence our future direction and operations. I’m very sincere when I say I do think it’s an opportunity to learn and grow. There’s no doubt it’s going to be a challenging period of time.”
Four outgoing U Sports board members have been replaced by Atkinson, Joanne MacLean, president and vice-chancellor of the University of the Fraser Valley, Graham Carr, president and vice-chancellor of Concordia University, and John Richard, director of athletics for the University of New Brunswick.
“We are confident their leadership and guidance will allow us to safely and effectively navigate the challenges of this critical time for university sports across Canada,” U Sports interim CEO Dick White said in a press release.
The election of the board of directors normally occurs in June, during the U Sports annual meeting, but the previous board composition was extended to preserve continuity while the organization finalized several key decisions and updated policies and regulations to adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Officers will be led by Carleton University president and vice-chancellor Benoit-Antoine Bacon, who joined the board in 2019 and has been appointed chair. Richard and MacLean will serve as vice-chair and treasurer, respectively, while Manon Simard, athletics director at Université de Montréal, remains U Sports secretary.
Atkinson is listed as a director representative online at usports.ca.
“It’s important to distinguish that, when on conference or national committees, you have to take off your institution hat and look at the conference or national perspective,” Atkinson said. “Having said that, I do think it’s good for TRU to be involved with those conversations.”