Awards Athletes of the Year

Athletes of the Year

In honour of the
top Canadian university athletes

The U SPORTS Athlete of the Year Awards honour the top university athletes in the country and promote post-graduate studies at Canadian universities. 

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About the Awards

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Success in business is more readily achieved when an individual is a team player, has faced competition, and developed passion and an ability to effectively communicate. In the early 1990s, when Canadian universities were facing financial cutbacks and athletic programs seemed the first to be cut, it was hoped that by introducing the Athlete of the Year Awards, U SPORTS could assist in focusing attention on the importance of athletics at Canadian universities and at the same time, showcase the great student-athletes we produce in Canada.

Since 1993, the Athlete of the Year Awards - formerly known as the Boren Ladner Gervais (BLG) and Howard Mackie Awards - have been a staple celebration in the national sport community, recognizing Canada’s top athletes competing in university athletics within U SPORTS, while also promoting post-graduate studies. 

Each of the 56 U SPORTS universities select a male and female Athlete of the Year from which one finalist of each gender are chosen to represent Atlantic Canada, Canada West, Ontario and Québec. These eight nominees are then considered for the U SPORTS Male and Female Athletes on the Year based on their athletic accomplishment, outstanding sportsmanship and demonstrated leadership.

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In 2019, the awards were relaunched as the U SPORTS Lieutenant Governor Athletic Awards, continuing to be championed by His Honour Doug Mitchell and Her Honour, the Honourable Lois Mitchell, Lieutenant Governor of Alberta.

With a focus on creating a leadership legacy, the rebrand broadens the scope of the event and provides nominees with a unique personal development experience - including the official awards ceremony at the historic McDougall Centre in Calgary and newly-added leadership training.

The winners are selected by a combined vote of the Canadian Athletic Foundation, a not-for-profit board chaired by His Honour Doug Mitchell – BLG national co-chair, philanthropist and UBC Thunderbird football alumnus – and the public on The Canadian Athletic Foundation was established for the purpose of administering the Awards and protecting the integrity of the selection process.

The two winners each receive a $10,000 post-graduate scholarship to attend a Canadian graduate university and a trophy. All nominees will receive a commemorative durilium ring from Baron, the Exclusive Provider of championship rings and recognition jewelry of U SPORTS.

Thank you to our event supporters: 

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Selection Criteria

The eight nominees are selected based on the following criteria:

  • Must have participated in a U SPORTS-sanctioned sport for two years (including the current year of nomination)
  • Must be in a course of study leading to their first undergraduate degree or graduate program (minimum second year);
  • Must be the university’s Athlete of the Year or runner-up; and
  • Cannot be a previous winner

The Doug & Lois Mitchell Trophies

In 2009, the Men's Athlete of the Year trophy was named the Doug Mitchell Trophy to honour the Chairman of the Canadian Athletic Foundation, founder of the Athlete of the Year Awards, an original Trustee of the Board, and former CFL Commissioner (1984-88) who played for the UBC Thunderbirds and B.C. Lions.

Beginning in 2020, both the Male and Female Athlete of the Year hardware were rebranded after its champions - Their Honours Doug and Lois Mitchell. A new award was then created in honour of the female trophy's former namesake. 

The Jim Thompson Trophy

In 2003, the Women’s Athlete of the Year trophy was named the Jim Thompson Trophy, in recognition of the contribution of the late Jim Thompson, an original Trustee of the Canadian Athletic Foundation Board. Following the rebranding of the Athlete of the Year trophies in 2020, the Jim Thompson Trophy will be given to a distinguished alumni of the program beginning in 2021.  

Thompson served on the Board of the Canadian Athletic Foundation since its inception in 1993. As President of TSN at the time, he was responsible for bringing the Awards to television. Thompson was not only a strong supporter of the Awards but a firm believer in the value of athletics at Canadian universities and of amateur sports.

At the time of his passing in 2002, Jim was the Chief Executive Officer and Secretary General of the Canadian Olympic Committee.