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University of Toronto
U of T Great Past

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Photo: Michael Visser


A fine marble sculpture created by Robert Tate McKenzie crowns one of the largest athletic trophies at the university. Decades of tarnish cover the small silver plaque, but rub it gently and you discover a page of an illustrious life: "Presented to Hon. Coach H. C. Griffith as a token of esteem by the University of Toronto Rugby Team, Intercollegiate Canadian Champions, 1909."

Henry Crawford Griffith (BA 1897 Trinity, MA 1899), who was a professor of French from 1907 to 1911, won national recognition on the university's rugby field. He was probably awarded the trophy because his team won the Earl Grey Cup in 1909 - the first year it was presented. (For good measure, the Varsity team took the cup home again in 1910.)

In T. A. Reid's book The Blue and White (1945), Griffith is described as "a guide, philosopher and friend" to his youthful charges. One student recalled that Griffith "never knew the signals" to communicate on the field. Instead he was remembered for his constant credo: "Tackle hard, tackle low and tackle often."

A champion of amateur athletics and Canadian football, he died in 1960 and was heralded by a university senate resolution as "undoubtedly one of the greatest athletic coaches Canada has produced."

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