University sports in Saskatchewan reflect the spirit and tenacity of the province’s residents. Expectations of strong academic ability and physical prowess went hand in hand in 1912, according to the University of Saskatchewan yearbook, the Greystone. Athletes competed in soccer, rugby, track and field, tennis, fencing, and hockey. Women and men played in inter-varsity, city and provincial sports leagues. The Huskies represented teams at the University of Saskatchewan, while intramural sports encouraged the average athlete to enjoy recreational team play. Known as rugby until 1948, football in Saskatchewan was first played at the University of Saskatchewan campus in 1911. Individual campuses had their own teams until 1914–15, when the first official varsity team formed. In 1927 University of Saskatchewan professor Evan Hardy, known as the “father of inter-collegiate football,” formed the Western Intercollegiate Rugby Union League. Prior to the 1960s, the Huskies team played against the Saskatoon Hilltops and the Saskatchewan Roughriders; today’s Saskatchewan Huskies are ranked as one of Canada’s best university football teams. Sports on campus continued to play a huge role in university life. The early years of hockey at the University of Saskatchewan included women’s and men’s teams competing on outdoor rinks; Rutherford Rink, built in 1929, remains home to the Saskatchewan Huskies hockey team. Basketball took hold in 1914, when the gym was in the basement of the College building and caused consternation for teams who played there: the building was known for its low ceilings, which made outside shots rather difficult.
The province is also home to the University of Regina Cougars sports programs, which originated in the early 1960s; the Cougars joined the Canadian Interuniversity Athletic Union in 1968. In particular, the Cougettes and later the Lady Cougars gained prominence in women’s basketball between 1977 and 1979, finishing with an impressive second-place standing in the country and an 11–5 record. The winning continued through the 1980s and 90s with the Lady Cougars continuing to place in the top ten nationally; in 2001, the team won a national title. The men’s Cougars also did well in basketball by becoming one of the top four teams at the nationals in recent years. Success in Saskatchewan university sports is also attributed to the efforts of the Canadian Interuniversity Athletic Union Central (CIAUC), which was founded in Ontario and Quebec in 1906 and by 1919 expanded into Saskatchewan and further west. The CIAUC provided universal rules and coaching practices, guided the standards for building sports facilities, and established professional coaching and management positions and strategies. In 1961, the Canadian Interuniversity Athletic Union (CIAU) integrated the latest scientific coaching methods, state of the art communication systems, and the coordination of national and international competitions. Saskatchewan university sports teams benefited further as the CIAU expanded under the supervision the federal government. The CIAU provided Saskatchewan teams with opportunities to train, engage in sports research and testing, identify and recruit talented athletes, and have access to international competitions through government funding. In 2001, CIAU changed its name to Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS).