© Photo by Josh Schaefer Photography
Swift Current product Ed Carleton was recently awarded the Gino Fracas Award as the top assistant coach in CIS Football for his work with the University of Saskatchewan Huskies.
A former resident of Swift Current was recently recognized as the top assistant coach in Canadian Interuniversity Sport for his contributions as defensive coordinator of the University of Saskatchewan Huskies football team.
Ed Carleton, 47, was the recipient of Football Canada’s Gino Fracas Award as the Most Outstanding Assistant Coach in the CIS.
Carleton grew up in Swift Current before moving on to play for the University of Saskatchewan Huskies for five seasons until graduation in 1989.
He made a quick ascent up the coaching ranks beginning in 1990 to 1991 as a linebackers coach and defensive coordinator at Evan Hardy Collegiate in Saskatoon before jumping to the Huskies in 1992 as defensive line coach under his former coach Brian Towriss.
“We are pretty proud of the fact that he was recognized by Football Canada. He has been a dedicated volunteer for 20 years plus and certainly very deserving,” said Towriss.
What Towriss did not explain was that he was the one who nominated his longtime colleague for the award.
“It was a tremendous honour,” said Carleton. “I think it was the biggest honour to me because Brian Towriss nominated me. Obviously he is the man that has allowed me to do a lot of these things in my life, a man that mentored me and kind of took a lot of us boys and made us into men as players. The privilege I have had to be able to be a colleague of his for 20 more years as a coach is just a tremendous experience.”
Carleton became the Huskies’ defensive coordinator and linebackers coach in 1996 and has filled that role for the past 16 seasons.
“He has been a very loyal and hard-working soldier for us for 20 years,” added Towriss. “In the last 15 or so he has been the defensive coordinator and consistently puts out a competitive, hard-nosed, physical defensive unit for our football team.”
“There are 11 of us there,” said Carleton. “Most guys aren’t paid, they are just volunteers and we don’t do this for any other reason than we love the game, we love the young men, and we love giving back to the program. There aren’t a lot of rewards and there shouldn’t be. It is reward enough doing what we do.”
In his 20 years with the Huskies he has helped the storied program to eight Canada West Conference Championships and two Vanier Cups titles in six appearances.
Carleton works today as the Chief of Staff for the Premier for the Saskatoon Cabinet Office in Intergovernmental Affairs. He said that seeing the progress of young men on the Huskies has been the most rewarding aspect of his time on the sidelines.
“We always have the goal every year of playing in the national championship. We feel we have that capacity and that caliber of people around, so it is disappointing when you don’t. Since I have been defensive coordinator we have played in six national championships and we have been able to call ourselves champions a couple of times and all those were pretty special times,” said Carleton.
Towriss coached Carleton on the Huskies early in his career. He said the signs of coaching material were evident early.
“Yeah we did recognize that. He communicated pretty well. He certainly loved to watch film and was really a student of the game. He wasn’t the most athletic linebacker we ever had but certainly a guy that wanted to learn about the game and he has continued to do that throughout his career.”
Towriss said he has seen Carleton evolve over the years.
“I think he has mellowed a little as most of us do. But he has adapted to many changing situations and challenges and really found the time to make this a priority in his life and we are thankful for it.”
Carleton is already one of the longest serving coordinators in the CIS.
“Everyone knows me and they know there is not going to be a lot of bells and whistles with what we do. They know we keep it pretty basic. We try and exploit simple things that we can do out of the base concept of our defense. All-in-all we want to play Huskie defense, physical, tenacious, and get 12 guys to the football every play and that is what we do.”
Carleton has made some important contributions to the Huskie Football Program as a volunteer coach.
“Well I think the process is the same but the resources, both time and money, that have gone into the game in the last 10 years has changed drastically,” explained Towriss. “The demands are far greater in terms of recruiting, in terms of off-field preparation. Because of that, the demands of your time go way up. That is something that all CIS Programs have battled and that is why I say that volunteers are so important to us and Ed has been one of the great ones.
“We want to credit Football Canada and Gino Fracas for recognizing the importance of volunteers in CIS Football here. We are not like the Americans where we have unlimited budgets and 13 or 14 paid coaches so volunteers are really the lifeblood of our programs and it is certainly nice that Football Canada has recognized it and named it after a real legend in Canadian college football,” added Towriss.
“It is named after a great man, Gino Fracas, who I personally knew and worked with on several things to do with football in Canada,” added Carleton. “That was also a tremendous honour in itself. It was very humbling.”
Carleton has no plans to hand in his whistle and clipboard just yet.
“I think I am still pretty young and I can coach for a long time I think. When I wake up in the spring and I don’t feel like going to spring camp and I am not excited to go out there and get excited for the football season then I guess it would be time to hang’em up, but I haven’t experienced that yet. I will do it as long as the good lord and coach Towriss allows me to.”
Carleton said he once had aspirations to be a head coach and run a program himself. He has had opportunities for paid positions over the years but was never able to leave the Huskies and said he is pretty sure he never will.
Towriss believes that Carleton would make a very good head coach if he chooses to go that route.
“Yeah I think he is. There is a window of opportunity in your life where that comes in. He has said to me several times that he would like to. I think that desire has maybe lessened a little bit as his life changes and his full-time employment situation changes as well. I think he would do a great job if he decided to pursue it.”