A historic coach who is synonymous with success in U SPORTS football, Blake Nill continues to build on his legacy by leading championship teams and sending players into the professional ranks.
Nill is entering his sixth season as coach of the UBC Thunderbirds. The team has appeared in the Hardy Canada West Cup championship game in three of its previous four seasons. Combined with his time in charge of the Calgary Dinos, Nill has guided a team to the Hardy Cup game 10 times over the past 12 seasons.
Four Thunderbirds were selected in the 2020 CFL Draft, while three UBC linebackers were selected in the 2021 CFL Draft.
In 2018, the T-Birds went 5-3 in the regular season before losing an overtime game in the Canada West Hardy Cup semifinals.
In total, Nill had 18 T-Birds drafted into the CFL during his tenure with the program.
Already one of the most decorated coaches in the country after stellar stints at Saint Mary’s and Calgary, Nill made history with UBC in 2015, his first season with the program.
In his debut with the Bleu et Or, he led a remarkable turnaround, guiding the team to the Vanier Cup national championship. The year began with a triumphant non-conference victory at Laval in Quebec. The team went on to record a 6-2 regular season, which was followed by playoff wins over Manitoba, Calgary, St. Francis Xavier and finally Montreal in the U SPORTS title game at the same TELUS Stadium- Laval University where his season started. .
UBC won the Canada West Hardy Cup championship and the Vanier Cup for the first time since 1997. It was the school’s 15th conference title and fourth national championship overall. Nill became the first coach in U SPORTS history to guide two different schools to Vanier Cup victories.
With a 158-67 conference and playoff record, Nill is third in overall wins among active U SPORTS coaches. In six seasons with the T-Birds, he holds a 22-18 regular season record and a 6-3 playoff record.
Nill came to Vancouver after nine years as head coach of the Calgary Dinos. Prior to that, he spent eight seasons as head coach at Saint Mary’s in Halifax.
In Calgary, Nill led the Dinos to three Vanier Cup appearances (2009, 2010 and 2013) and a record six consecutive Hardy Cup championships (2008-13) as the top team in Canada West.
In each of his last seven seasons in Calgary, the Dinos have won at least five regular season games and one playoff game. Nill won the Frank Tindall Trophy as U SPORTS Coach of the Year in 1999 and was a finalist in 2000, 2001, 2003, 2009, 2012 and 2013. He was named Canada West Coach of the Year at three times: 2009, 2012, and 2013.
A native of Hanna, Alta., Nill’s first U SPORTS head coaching job was with Saint Mary’s. In eight years with the Huskies, he led them to a record six consecutive Atlantic University Sport (AUS) championships (1999-2004), four trips to the Vanier Cup (1999, 2001, 2002, 2003) and two Vanier Cup championships (2001 & 2002).
Nill’s U SPORTS coaching career began at St. Francis Xavier as a defensive coordinator in 1992. He spent six years with the X-Men, helping them to the Vanier Cup in 1996. During his coaching days game, Nill played for the Calgary Dinos from 1980 to 1982.
He was selected by the Montreal Concordes in the third round, 19th overall in the 1983 CFL Draft. He played in the CFL from 1983 to 1988 with Montreal, Hamilton and Winnipeg.
Nill received a Bachelor of Arts from Concordia (Quebec) in 1989, as well as a Bachelor of Science and a Masters of Education from St. Francis Xavier.