Dufresne, Dheensaw honoured by U SPORTS at annual awards gala

Dufresne, Dheensaw honoured by U SPORTS at annual awards gala

Evan Daum, Canada West Communications


  • U SPORTS hosted its awards gala Wednesday night in Mississauga, Ont., as part of the national body’s annual conference
  • Former University of Manitoba women’s basketball head coach and athletic director Coleen Dufresne took home the Austin-Matthews award for her outstanding long-term contributions to interuniversity sport
  • Times Colonist sports journalist Cleve Dheensaw earned the Fred Sgambati award for his outstanding media coverage of Canadian university sport

MISSISSAUGA, Ont. – A pair of longtime Canada West contributors were honoured Wednesday night by U SPORTS at the national body’s annual awards gala, as former Manitoba Bisons athletic director Coleen Dufresne and Times Colonist (Victoria) sports journalist Cleve Dheensaw took home national awards.

Dufresne, who spent more than three decades combined in Canadian university sport as a coach and administrator, was named the Austin-Matthews award winner for her outstanding long-term contributions to interuniversity sport.

A native of Dorion, Quebec, Dufresne studied at the University of Ottawa, McGill University, and the University of New Brunswick while competing at the highest level of women’s basketball, including her participation at the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal on the Canadian women’s national team. 

Following her playing career, Dufresne went on to spend four seasons coaching at UNB (1980-1984), before moving to the University of Manitoba where she guided the Bisons women’s basketball squad until 2001. 

Over the course of her coaching career, Dufresne won three national championships (1988, 1996 and 1997) and earned national coach of the year honours in 1983, 1988 and 1998. 

Dufresne transitioned into the role of athletic director at Manitoba in 2001 and went on to lead the Bisons until her retirement in 2016. Over her long and successful career, Dufresee was heavily involved in international university sport, attending six Universiades, a pair of World University Championships, and in 2015 became just the second Canadian elected to the FISU Executive Committee. 

“Everyone involved with Bison Sports at the University of Manitoba over the past few decades recognizes the name Coleen Dufresne, and knows how integral she has been to the success of the Bisons,” said Manitoba associate athletic director Curt Warkentin. “I am so pleased that Coleen is being recognized at the national level for her leadership and success as a basketball coach and sport leader. The 2017 Austin-Matthews award is a fitting honour to recognize Coleen’s outstanding career in Canadian university sport.”

Winning the Fred Sgambati Media Award in recognition of his outstanding coverage of Canadian university sport is Cleve Dheensaw, who has covered sports on Vancouver Island for the last 36 years.

A native islander, the University of Victoria grad has travelled to cover a combined nine Olympic, Commonwealth and Pan Am Games since joining the paper in 1981. Dheensaw has also been a familiar face in Vancouver Island’s high school, college and university sports scenes, including at UVic’s most recent national championship events – the 2016 women's rugby and 2017 women's basketball U SPORTS championships. 

“There’s no one more deserving of the Fred Sgambati Award than Cleve Dheensaw,” said Times Colonist sports editor Brian Drewry. “Born and raised in Victoria, he understands the importance of varsity sports at UVic and what the school means to the community and the province. His coverage of the Vikes, whether it be basketball, soccer, field hockey or track and field, is always thorough and entertaining for our readers.”

Dheensaw becomes the fifth Canada West nominee to win the Sgambati award since 2005 and second consecutive winner from the conference after Calgary’s Rita Mingo of Postmedia won last year.