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On June 1, Drew Love officially took the reins as Director of Athletics at McGill after 26 years at Carelton University, including the past 11 years as Director of Recreation and Athletics. The former president of both Ontario University Athletics and Canadian Interuniversity Sport and the chef de mission for the Canadian delegation at the 2003 World University Games in Tarvisio, Italy, Love brings with him a wealth of both senior management experience and university athletics diplomacy. In a recent interview with the McGill Reporter, Love talked about his new job and his long-standing love affair with sports.
How similar is your job here at McGill to what you were doing at Carleton?
If you look at the job descriptions, they are identical. But the fact of the matter is, they're two completely different institutions. McGill is larger and definitely has a larger population that use the athletic complex and participate in intramurals.
Another difference is the culture of McGill. There is a wonderful spirit of giving here. Both the alumni who come out and give their time and money to support the program and the varsity coaches who are so dedicated to the program. It's really remarkable when you realize how involved people are.
Have you identified your priorities for the department yet?
The process is ongoing. I think it's only fair to spend a little time learning what people are doing and why they're doing it before I start presupposing. What is obvious is that they have a timetable of activities already in place, so I think I'm going to jump on some of those and help move them forward.
We have some physical issues that need to be addressed. The gym floor is in desperate need of a change and the Macdonald Arena needs a whole new ice plant system. I've also been sitting here watching our students line up to register for activities. They are so busy with school and other things, it is clear we have to help them by offering online registration.
When someone says "university athletics," people usually think varsity sports. In fact, this department affects a lot more people than varsity athletes, no?
I think we do have two significantly different activities that go on here. They can be very complementary but they are very different. Yes, the varsity athletes are here almost every day, but there are many other people who train here two or three times a week. One of my main interests has always been to promote recreational sport and, in some ways, the social aspects of coming down here to work out with your friends, and to meet faculty members or staff members.
What role do you see varsity sports playing at McGill?
Varsity teams give us a sense of pride in the school—for students, staff, faculty and especially alumni. When people are far away from the university, they don't always get a lot of research news — but many of them open up a sports page where they follow our teams. I want us to be competitive so we can nurture that pride.
As well, the media attention for some of these events creates an awareness of our brand and who we are as an institution. We spend so much time thinking about excellence in academics and research — but excellence goes beyond that. It can also be in drama or music or sport. To me, they are all part of a completely integrated experience.
As a lifelong jock, you understand the important role sports plays in a healthy lifestyle. Is that sometimes under-emphasized at McGill because of the focus on academics?
[Laughing] First of all, about me still being an athlete—I like to think I am, but anyone who has seen me play golf or basketball recently might disagree.
I haven't been here long enough to fully understand the culture of McGill. But traditionally, a university with such an outstanding academic reputation sometimes has a separation between academics, research and teaching and the student services side.
One of my priorities is to get all of the McGill community, not just the student body but the faculty and staff as well, to recognize the important role that we play. Not as the primary deliverer of service in the academic community, but as a complementary, secondary service that contributes to the lifestyle and wellness of our staff, faculty and student body.
What was the scouting report on you when you played centre on Carleton's varsity basketball team?
Hard worker, tenacious rebounder. Mediocre shooter at best, but I got my points. I was never the biggest centre, but I used my quickness and determination to get down the floor. I took pride in getting that rebound and being the first guy down the floor on the break.
Have you always been athletically inclined?
All my life. By my last year of high school I was playing six different sports and, thank goodness, I also managed to graduate. [Laughing] I started out playing the big three: basketball, football and volleyball. But in our school, every teacher was also a coach so they were always recruiting athletes for their sport. Next thing you know, I was doing track and field and water polo.
[Laughing] I can barely skate. I guess I spent all my time on the gym floor wearing Converse All Stars. But when my daughter got involved in ringette and I agreed to coach her team, I had to learn how to skate. They called me the Pylon on Ice.
To what do you attribute your love of sports?
Obviously, the physical exertion and the release of stress sports provide are wonderful. But more important to me is the social aspect and the friends I've made through sports. To this day, my 10 best friends are people that I grew up playing sports with. As well, the teamwork and leadership skills that I've acquired have helped me throughout my life. I can't tell you how many essential lessons I learned from all those failures and successes and the pain of training and the pain of recovering from injuries. It's funny, but to me the specific sport is actually secondary to the overall experience of playing.