Newly named CIS CEO Graham Brown
Written by Charles Vanegas for On Point Basketball
After a 7½-month-long search, Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) introduced former Rugby Canada boss Graham Brown as its new chief executive officer Thursday at Ryerson’s Mattamy Athletic Centre.
The 45-year-old Brown is credited with leading Rugby Canada into a golden era — which has seen success most recently with gold medal wins at the 2015 Pan Am Games (rugby sevens – M+W) and a silver performance at the 2014 Women’s Rugby World Cup. Since he was named CEO in 2003, Rugby Canada has grown from a company with just three full-time employees to a staff of 48. From 1998 to 2002, he served as executive director of the Ontario Minor Hockey Association.
“It takes a great deal of effort. It’s not going to happen overnight,” said Brown, citing the process of uniting the provincial rugby unions towards a common goal. “If we could have rugby all on the same page, I believe we can have tremendous success at the CIS level.”
Under former CEO Pierre LaFontaine, CIS has undergone “a significant transformation,” moving towards a strategic board model. With his success raising the profile of Rugby Canada over the past decade, they hope Brown can do the same for them.
“As we talked to Graham about his vision for the CIS, we saw a man who has already done the kind of transformation with one organization and has the potential to help us move CIS forward,” said University of Lethbridge president Mike Mahon, who serves as the chair of the CIS board of directors.
Brown and CIS Board of Directors Chair Mike Mahon
Brown is no stranger to the university level, having played varsity basketball and football for the University of Windsor and was a founding member of the men’s rugby program, while earning his bachelor’s degree in sports administration (1992). However, he said that after years away, his top priority is re-familiarizing himself.
Having attended three games at the CIS Final 8 men’s basketball championship in March, Brown says he has yet to discuss changes to the eight-team, four-day format, but nothing is off the table.
“What I can say is that you want your national championships to be the pinnacle, and if the pinnacle is best-served with 12, then great. If it’s not, and the pinnacle is 8 [then that’s fine too],” said Brown. “It should be what’s best for the sport and best to profile the top athletes from that year.”
Another sticking point for fans was the issue of CIS seeding. While the OUA was given the top three seeds at the tournament, the #2 seed — Windsor — was “rewarded” with a first-round matchup with Ryerson, who finished the regular season 17-2 and only had losses to Carleton (top seed) and Ottawa (#3-seed), the eventual CIS champions and finalists. The Rams won 82-68.
Nevertheless, the former Lancer declined to share his opinion.
“I’m a fan,” said Brown. “Now I’m going from being a CIS fan — and basketball is certainly my favourite sport — to being on the business side of it. I can’t comment.”
Photos by Charles Vanegas
Edited by Drew Ebanks