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Alouettes president speaks at Concordia

by Archives October 23, 2007

Montreal Alouettes president and former CFL commissioner Larry Smith was at Concordia Oct. 16 to talk about the role of leadership in sports and life. Smith also gave attendees a sneak peek into the plans to renovate the Loyola campus athletics complex.
Smith opened his speech by explaining the state of athletics in Canada. He pointed out that Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) had made some steady improvements from his days as a football player for a Bishop’s University team, which at the time only featured 35 players. Smith went on to talk about the emergence of Concordia as a university that community and business leaders are looking to support.
“The thing that I noticed about Concordia was not only the way it markets and brands itself but also the enthusiasm people have for the school,” he said.
While quick to applaud the progress in Canadian athletics, Smith did state that more needed to be done in order to create a more competitive push to promote sports and athletics in the country.
“I don’t accept the U.S. system that goes to one extreme that promotes athletics to the point that kids are pushed through school without becoming academically qualified,” he said. “In Canada we need to make a decision about whether or not we are going to compete without jeopardizing our athletic system in terms of integrity.”
A Montreal icon, Smith played for the Alouettes from 1972 to 1980. He admitted that he experienced moments of uncertainty when faced with the prospect of a life outside football. “There is no such thing as entitlement, I can remember after my ninth year they called me into the office [to let me go]. I’d never missed a game in one hundred and forty consecutive games and I’d been in the playoffs 13 years and five Grey Cups. But being told you are too old at 31, it’s a big blow to your ego,” he said.
Smith stressed the fact that “you only deserve the opportunity to work tomorrow.” He used an example of a bicycle, emphasizing education and career knowledge as the power-generating back wheel and communication skills and confidence as the front wheel. He explained that both wheels must be kept in balance for the individual to achieve and maintain a successful career. Drawing from his personal experience as a publisher for The Gazette, Smith talked about his initial lack of printing experience and the reliance he placed on his staff when the printing press broke during his first day on the job. He said that he was able to quickly identify who was worth keeping by asking questions that empowered his staff to do their jobs.
“I’m the president of something, am I on the bottom or on the top?” Smith asked of the audience. “I’m on the bottom because if our people don’t sell ten million dollars’ worth of tickets then I’m screwed. If our people don’t sell 5.5 million dollars’ worth of sponsorships, we’re dead. So my job is to get people to do their jobs.”
Smith closed his speech by talking about the progress of the plans to renovate the Loyola sports complex. He mentioned that the project would cost about sixty million dollars and would be supported by a combination of private and public funding. Among the proposed additions of a gym and swimming pool, Smith also mentioned the possibility of a bubble placed over the Loyola practice field. While excited about the project, Smith pointed out that funding is still needed and the construction would take time to get underway.

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