tampabay.com

Rookie Flutie in familiar territory

By GREG AUMAN
Published July 18, 2006


NEWPORT, R.I. - As a 43-year-old rookie analyst, Doug Flutie has a unique perspective on the new Big East, having played his college football before the league had football membership.

Boston College is gone now, but Flutie has a respect for both his old rivals and the conference's new members.

"It's a different, realigned conference, but with the parity today, teams like Louisville and West Virginia can compete with anyone," Flutie said Monday while playing in the league's preseason media golf gathering at Newport National Golf Club. "It's still exciting football, and it's the region I've been around my whole life. I'm looking forward to it."

Flutie will work in ABC's studio on Saturdays and will broadcast a few weeknight games for ESPN. He's not playing pro football for the first time in 21 years and said he enjoys retirement.

"Right now, it feels great. Come the fall, I know I'll miss it," he said. "My body's telling me it's time to move on to something else."

PECKING ORDER: The league will unveil its preseason media poll today, with defending champ West Virginia expected to be the consensus pick to win the conference again. Louisville is close behind, and has the advantage of playing the head-to-head matchup with West Virginia at home on Nov. 2.

The Mountaineers are likely a top-five team nationally in the preseason and Louisville should be ranked as well, and those two have helped the league's reputation on a national level. Could the Big East have a third team emerge as worthy of a national ranking?

"I think what we accomplished last year has made the college athletic world think again about what we did," Rutgers athletic director Robert Mulcahy said. "I think our success has certainly been better than most people thought. It's a very strong league."

West Virginia and Louisville went a combined 5-2 against teams in other BCS conferences last season, while the rest of the league was a combined 0-10. The league has chance to prove itself again this fall, playing eight games against ACC opponents and six against Big Ten schools.

USF has two games against opponents from BCS conferences, traveling to Kansas Sept. 23 and to North Carolina Oct. 14.

THIS AND THAT: USF's presence in the league has teams recruiting Florida more than ever. The other seven teams combined to sign 35 players from the state in February, led by Louisville (10) and Rutgers (eight). ... Contrary to published reports, West Virginia is not interested in former Miami linebacker Willie Williams, who is transferring. "He called and inquired and we said, 'Thanks, but no thanks,' " coach Rich Rodriguez told the Charleston (W.V.) Gazette. Louisville is another possibility.