James Lazaruk, ’71 BSc, ’72 Dip(Ed), ’73 BEd, is remembered for the Hall of Fame impact he made with Golden Bears football, and for his tremendous leadership and winning pedigree.
He passed away on August 29, 2019.
Wherever Lazaruk went, winning seemed to follow. Whether that was with the Golden Bears football team, the Edmonton Wildcats football team, or at Salisbury Composite High School, Lazaruk had the ‘Midas Touch’.
He first joined the Golden Bears football team in 1970, after previously having been a back-to-back all-star offensive lineman with the Edmonton Huskies. He added to a roster that included future Sports Wall of Fame inductees Dale Schulha, Dan McCaffery, and head coach Clare Drake, and quickly became the anchor on what was possibly the best offensive line in Canada. He helped the Bears to a pair of consecutive Vanier Cup games in 1971 and 1972, and lifted the championship trophy in 1972.
After earning his Bachelor of Education in 1973, Lazaruk quickly transitioned to a leader in the classroom, becoming one of Edmonton’s top high school educators, teaching mathematics at Salisbury High School for an incredible 33 years. He also founded the Salisbury Sabres High School football team, and served as head coach, while also an assistant coach with the Edmonton Wildcats junior football team. Within two seasons of founding the high school team, he guided the Sabres to their first City Championship.
In 1976, he became the Wildcats head coach, and he led them to the 1977 National Junior Championship, and in the span of just eight years, Lazaruk had won three different football championships, at three different levels.
Lazaruk’s former coach, Jim Donlevy, offered him a spot on the Golden Bears football coaching staff as Offensive Coordinator in 1979, and over the next three seasons, the Golden Bears captured three-straight Hardy Cups, and in his second season as Offensive Coordinator, the Bears were back in the Vanier Cup. Behind Bears star running back, and Canada West Player of the Year Sean Kehoe, the Golden Bears cruised past the Ottawa Gee Gee’s 40-21, winning their third Vanier Cup in 1980.
After a record sixth Vanier Cup appearance in 1981, a 18-12 loss to Acadia, Lazaruk stepped into the role of Head Coach for two seasons, replacing Donlevy, who left to work with the 1983 Summer Universiade, which was hosted in Edmonton. Lazaruk won the Western Intercollegiate Football League Coach of the Year award in 1983.
In 1984 he took on the role as head coach of the Salisbury Women’s Basketball program in 1984, and in the corresponding 20 years, Lazaruk added another four championships to his resume with Salisbury. By 2005, he had joined the MacEwan University Griffins Women’s Basketball coaching staff, serving as head coach from 2006-2010.
Lazaruk finished his career having won two Vanier Cups with the Golden Bears, including one as a player, one national championship with the Huskies and a total of five championships with the Salisbury Sabres, along with five Coach of the Year awards. He was inducted onto the UAlberta Sports Wall of Fame in 2017.