With nearly 20 years of experience as an athletics director, Drew Love, McGill Athletics and Recreation’s current executive director, is the epitome of a CIS lifer. Love will be stepping down from his position at the end of this year, closing an immensely successful and impactful chapter of his life in order to focus on family and move towards retirement.
“I knew I’d be going back to Ottawa at some point, it just seemed like this was the opportunity to do it now,” Love explained. “After 19 years, as well, I recognized maybe that it was time for me to move on and let other people lead the ship, and I’ll look back with fond memories.”
Love, an Ottawa native, spent 26 years at Carleton as a student-athlete, master’s student, and director of recreation and athletics. When he did make the move to McGill, Love realized that it was important for him to step outside of his comfort zone in order to grow professionally and personally.
“I looked at my career and really decided that I loved the job of being an athletics director, but I really wanted the opportunity to broaden it out,” Love said. “I didn’t want to retire and have my last job be at Carleton. That’s advice I would give to anyone: To not start and end their career in the same place [….] I really felt like when I had left Carleton I had done everything I could do at Carleton at the time, and I was looking for another challenge and another opportunity.”
When Love came to McGill, he inherited an athletics program that had strong alumni support, great facilities, and positive brand recognition, but lacked a degree of competitiveness and quality in the varsity programs.
“I saw a solid foundation here, but one of the things that I [tried] to do when I came to McGill was to put the varsity programs back in the forefront of peoples’ minds,” Love said.
During his tenure, McGill’s varsity programs have taken enormous strides—McGill teams have hoisted a bevy of league titles and multiple national championships, and nearly all CIS teams have qualified for CIS National Championships. Love highlighted the importance of the coaches and student-athletes in these successes.
“I believe very strongly that to be successful, it starts with great coaching, good recruiting, and great student-athletes,” Love said. “[By] giving the coaches that we had both administrative support and financial support, [we gave] them the opportunity to be successful. They didn’t in any way let us down.”
Over the course of his long career, Love has seen the landscape of university sports shift drastically. Within the past decade, the role of the student-athlete within the sporting world has changed thanks to the increasing corporatization of university athletics. It has undoubtedly impacted universities and increased their emphasis on athletics as a barometer of success. McGill Athletics has been forced to adapt to these broad trends.
“There is the incredibly challenging situation we have in some of our higher profile sports to be competitive […] and how we can hold that in perspective with the student athlete,” Love explained. “We have to maintain the student and student-athlete, and that’s going to be a challenge with some of the schools that are investing heavily in sports and therefore are measuring success by wins and losses, and not necessarily by the number of students that graduate.”
Looking back on his career, Love acknowledged that there have been a multitude of difficult decisions to make that have had immense impacts on varsity programs, coaching personnel, and student-athletes’ lives. Despite the difficulty at the time and the benefit of hindsight, he said that he wouldn’t have done things differently.
“I’ve been okay with those decisions and I recognize that I made what I felt to be the right decision at the time,” Love explained. “What I’m very thankful for is that I’m leaving and I really had a lot of fun, met a lot of great people, and am looking forward to moving on and letting someone take up the torch.”