Last Tuesday at Hart House, the Varsity Blues football team got a much-needed breath of fresh air into its program. Coming off some its worst years in which the team only won two games, the appointment of former Blue Steve Howlett is a signal the program is going to have a brighter future.
Howlett had a storied CIS career at U of T becoming an OUA all-star at slotback. In 1983 he helped the Blues capture the Yates Cup. After his career at U of T, Howlett was drafted by the Edmonton Eskimos and played there for two seasons before concluding his career with the Ottawa Rough Riders.
Football remained in Howlett’s blood after his playing career. He stayed in football by coaching, where he directed offence on the CFL level. Howlett joins U of T from the CFL’s Ottawa Renegades, where he was the team’s offensive assistant coach.
Prior to joining the Renegades, Howlett spent 10 years coaching in the CIS, including time as the assistant head coach at St. Francis Xavier University. He was also the offensive co-ordinater with both the University of Alberta and the University of Ottawa.
Bruce Kidd, Dean of the Faculty of Physical Education and Health, was ecstatic with the hiring, and emphasized that Howlett clearly distanced himself from the other 28 potential candidates with his vision of how to turn around such a historic program. Kidd was also impressed with the fact that “Howlett was willing to maintain the academic standards that the university had,” and that “he also knows what it takes to be a successful student-athlete at the university.”
Kidd pointed out Howlett’s “ability to not only be a football coach but also a mentor and educator with a chance to shape the lives of these young men.”
Howlett, in a one-on-one interview with The Varsity, said that a lot of responsibility would be delegated to his staff of assistant coaches, the alumni, the university, the students and the players. In order for things to turn around for the program it would take the blood, sweat and tears of all of these people. “Patience must be preached because turning around this program is not going to be easy… but the pieces are in place.”
“Every position would be recruited in the off season, and even though the Blues record has been horrendous, the prestige of the program is still intact,” said Howlett when asked about recruitment and the difficulties with recruiting after so many losing seasons.
Howlett said his skills lie in being able to identify talent throughout Canada, and assured the recruits will come to U of T once they understand the vision that Howlett has for the program.
“This is my dream job. This is where I grew up and learned the game of football. It is my greatest desire is to be successful at the nation’s best academic and athletic university.”
Howlett inherits a team with a lot of holes and a horrendous record over the last five years, but with hard work, he believes that the Varsity Blues football team can return to the success that it achieved in 1993, when they were crowned CIS football champions.