TORONTO, ON – U SPORTS has a new CEO as Pierre Arsenault takes over the role from interim CEO Dick White, who has held the position since Graham Brown ended his five years in the role in June 2020.
Arsenault officially assumes the role on June 6 but will soon begin the transition period with White. He will be the second full-time CEO since CIS rebranded to U SPORTS in 2016.
From Riverview, NB, Arsenault has held several positions within Canadian university sport, including 13 years as the Director of Athletics and Recreation at Mount Allison University in Sackville, NB, in addition to serving on the U SPORTS Board of Directors from 2018-2020. He was also the President of the AUS conference from 2018-2020.
A graduate of the University of New Brunswick with a Bachelor of Physical Education, Arsenault also completed a Master of Arts in Sport Administration from the University of Ottawa.
While at Mount Allison, he spearheaded the development of a Mounties Strategic Plan, which has served as the framework for developing sports, fitness, and recreation activities at the university, while also adding the new artificial turf field for $1.5 million CAD in 2015.
“It is a tremendous honour for me to accept this position to help lead U SPORTS as we continue to celebrate and grow the story of university sport in Canada,” Arsenault said in a release. “I am so very grateful for everything the Mount Allison community has provided me and my family. It will be tough to say goodbye, but I am excited for the opportunity to continue to serve U SPORTS, our members, and student-athletes in a new and exciting manner.”
Arsenault will remain in Sackville, N.B. with his family but will regularly commute to the U SPORTS national office in Richmond Hill, Ont.
Seeking a new approach from inside
While U SPORTS looked outside of the Canadian university sport landscape for the last hire in Graham Brown, the organization is looking inside this time with hopes that Arsenault’s familiarity with the issues in Canadian university sport help change things.
“I would like us to get to a state where we have 10-15 programs in every one of our sports (that) can legitimately compete for national championships,” Arsenault said in an article posted to the U SPORTS website in 2018. “The gap among the top teams in our sports and the next-best tier is wider than it should be, and it would be great if we can establish a set of parameters that allows for programs at the top of our sports.”
The issue is, that with 56 schools, many with small and shrinking athletics budgets, the backing for growth is not necessarily there. While the AUS, where Arsenault joins from, is likely the strongest conference in men’s hockey, they trail the other conferences in nearly every other sport, and common contenders rule the national championship stage.
There is a potential for Canadian university sport, and it can be seen at schools such as UNB with their following on the university’s hockey programs, but more often than not, university sport is considered the best-kept sporting secret in Canada.
For Arsenault, it’s now on him to remove the secrecy in a league and organization trying to bounce back strong from COVID-19.