Depending on where you live, you probably remember quarterback Doug Flutie for any of a variety of reasons.
In his hometown of Boston, he’s recalled for his spectacular 1984 Heisman Trophy season at Boston College, which included one of college football’s all-time most memorable moments, his Hail Mary pass to defeat Miami on the road. In Canada, he was a three-time Grey Cup champion, the first with Calgary and final two in Toronto. And his late 1990s stint with the NFL’s Buffalo Bills sparked the final playoff fun for that proud franchise.
These days, Flutie is a college football analyst for NBC Sports and is an Advisory Board member for the Capital One Cup (www.capitalonecup.com, www.facebook.com/capitalonecup), which annually recognizes the best NCAA Division I men’s and women’s athletics programs.serves on the advisory committee for the Capital One Cup. With another season of gridiron action just around the corner, it’s a good time to catch up with the former Heisman winner.
The Big Lead: The biggest news in college football is the adoption of a four-team playoff, beginning in 2014. What are your thoughts on the new system? Should there be more than four teams or is that about right?
Doug Flutie: For now, four teams is OK. It’s about right. It would be difficult to jump into something bigger right away. If you went any further, with the added games and the format, you’re talking about making alumni travel in groups of tens of thousands for an entire week. It’s not like the basketball tourney, where you’re basically traveling for a weekend.
I think the way they did it was excellent. You’ve got the plus-one format with the teams seeded and only one extra game. So it doesn’t extend the season. The headaches are, with a four-team tourney, you’ll still have some of the same problems with smaller conference teams going undefeated and you might see an SEC team with one or two losses get in. The big boys will still dominate. In a perfect world I wouldn’t mind a bigger tournament. It would be a truer playoff. I think down the road, once they see the money they make off this, other conferences are going to want a piece of the action.
TBL: Looking at the upcoming season, there’s a lot of talk about an Alabama-LSU rematch. Do you agree they’re the leading contenders, and who do you think could crash the party come January?
DF: The SEC has won the title six years in a row, so you can almost guarantee one of those teams will come out of there. Right now, Alabama and LSU are the front runners. Alabama lost four guys on the defensive side, all first-round draft picks. [Quaterback A.J.] McCaron had his best game in national title game, so that bodes well for them. LSU has that new kid at quarterback [Zach Mettenberger], they’ll be in the mix.
Then you’ve got USC and Oregon on the West Coast. Those two teams will play one another, and then you’ll see one or both in the conference title game. If one stays clean or comes out of the season with only one loss, they might have the opportunity to get in and make some noise. USC is stacked and Oregon is reloaded. As long as you don’t have a situation like last year, one of those teams should face whoever comes out of the SEC.
TBL: As a former Heisman Trophy winner, I have to ask you your thoughts on this year’s race. Do you agree with the idea that this is USC quarterback Matt Barkley’s trophy to lose?
DF: I think that’s overdoing it a bit. Barkley’s in a great position. He’s a solid quarterback with great numbers. He’s been committed since he made his decision to come back. He doesn’t have a star running back or depth in the backfield, but his offensive line has gotten better and came together towards end of the year. So I think the situation lends itself to him airing it out a little bit and putting up some numbers. One guy I think can really make some noise is Denard Robinson out of Michigan. He’s so exciting to watch. His biggest issue has been his consistency. He’d have a quarter or a half where he’d not throw the ball well, maybe throw a couple bad interceptions. But then he’d look up at the clock and the competitor in him comes out. He’s the most exciting guy in college football.
TBL: How often do you get asked about “The Pass” against Miami? Do you ever get sick of talking about it?
DF: You know, I don’t think so. The average is well over once or twice a day. Maybe there’s a day here or there where it doesn’t come up, but that’s about it. I got out to the Red Sox game last night and everyone I talked to used that as the icebreaker. I mean, look, everyone would love to be remembered for their entire body of work, but if you’re going to be remembered for just one thing, it’s good to be remembered for something that brings a smile to people’s face.
TBL: Your pro career was a testament to perseverance. During your years in the CFL, did you ever think you might not get another chance at the NFL?
DF: I resigned myself to the fact it wasn’t going to happen. I was content. I was enjoying myself, we won back-to-back titles in Toronto in ‘96 and ’97 and I was ready to retire.
My wife and I were talking about it, talking about the foolishness of running all over the place and wanting to just settle down. Then Buffalo called. It was really a garbage contract, but it just got my competitive juices flowing, I had to go show ‘em.
The eight years I spent in Canada totally rejuvenated my confidence. I was calling my own plays and running the offense. My confidence was at its peak, I felt like I was where I was the day I came out of school. The NFL beats your down, everyone’s conservative, they coach the aggressiveness out of you. Through my years in Canada, I was basically wheeling and dealing and turning it loose. When the NFL called again, the time was right.
TBL: Boston College earned Capital One Cup points by winning the men’s hockey national championship. As an Eagle alumni, how was that?
DF: Thank god for our hockey program right now. Boston College is the type of school that would be in the mix every year, very consistent across the board. But basketball’s down, football’s down. It’s frustrating. But what [coach] Jerry York has done with the hockey program is amazing. Every year he loses kids who go pro. When that happens, he’s out there recruiting and bringing in young kids every year. It’s great to watch them build as the year goes along and get better. By the second half of the season they are cruising. This year was the most dominant they’ve ever been. He’s a quality guy at BC. Like I said, thank goodness for hockey program. That’s one of the great things about the Capital One Cup is that so many sports are recognized and contribute to their athletics program’s point total.
TBL: You were a standout multi-sport athlete in high school. It takes excellence across many sports to win the Capital One Cup. What does the award mean to college sports?
DF: Schools like [2012 winners] Stanford and Florida know it’s important to have strong programs across the board, and they’re doing that. It really, Tthe bottom line is this, they’re handing out the award every summer at the ESPYs. The kids live for the ESPYs and getting that award on national television. There’s a camaraderie when your team is in the running for the Capital One Cup, people start rooting around campus, going to see the non-revenue sports here and there, it really takes on a life of its own. The Capital One Cup is a great measuring stick. It’s a great recruiting tool, it shows how high profile your school has become.
TBL: What do you have going on this summer? Anything you’d like the fans to know about?
DF: We’re going on the 13th year with the Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation for Autism (http://www.dougflutiejrfoundation.org/). We just had our annual golf tournament, so after that, I pretty much spend the summer returning the favors for people who came to my event. Other than that, I’ve just been having fun, playing some summer league baseball with my brothers, and pretty much acting like a kid while I can.