Laurentian sports administration program celebrates 50 years

Laurentian University’s sports administration program celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.

Alumni have gone on to lead major sports teams and corporations

A group of young people in suits.
Fourth-year students with Laurentian University's sports administration program travel to a different city each year for a capstone project, where they present to boards at different sports teams. (Submitted by SPAD Stories)

Laurentian University's sports administration program celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.

Alumni from the SPAD program, as it is commonly called, have gone on to work for teams in every major sports league in North America, and have also had successful careers outside of sport.

Kyle Davidson, the general manager of Chicago's NHL team, and Thomas Greco, the CEO of Advance Auto Parts are among those alumni.

When the program started in 1972, it was unique in Canada, said SPAD director Anthony Church.

Church said that Clarence Campbell, who was commissioner of the NHL at that time, complained on the CBC that sport people didn't understand business, and business people didn't understand sport.

"At the time the directors of our business school and our phys ed program heard this and got together and tried to figure out what would be the best way of dealing with this problem," Church said.

They came up with a program that would have students graduate with a commerce degree, but also had a special focus on sport.

Four men in suits in an older photo.
Laurentian's sports administration program dates back to the early 1970s. (Submitted by SPAD Stories)

Church said a couple similar programs existed in the U.S. in the early 1970s, but it was the first of its kind in Canada.

As alumni went on to successful careers, the program built a reputation and continued to grow.

At its peak, Church said they would get 400 applications for 70 available spots. But in more recent years he said the program failed to meet that quota due to Laurentian's financial troubles.

The university filed for insolvency in February 2021. It cut 69 programs and fired nearly 200 staff and faculty members in April of that year due to its financial situation.

"We're quite hopeful and optimistic that we will get back to where we were once we get on stronger footing here as an institution," Church said.

Before Laurentian filed for insolvency, the program also drew students from across Canada. Church said 90 per cent of students came from communities outside of Sudbury.

To celebrate its 50th anniversary, SPAD alumni have organized a fundraising gala at the Liberty Grand in Toronto, Thursday, October 13.

There will also be a meet and greet event at Science North, in Sudbury on Friday. Alumni are also encouraged to volunteer at the Elgin Street Mission, in Sudbury, on Saturday.

"To see graduates giving back to SPAD and to Sudbury demonstrates their passion and engagement," Jeff Bangs, chair of Laurentian University's board of governors, said in a press release.


Jonathan Migneault

Digital reporter/editor

Jonathan Migneault is a CBC digital reporter/editor based in Sudbury. He is always looking for good stories about northeastern Ontario. Send story ideas to