Baltimore wide-open to CFL

February 18, 1994|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,Sun Staff Writer

On the occasion of Baltimore's formal entry into the Canadian Football League, they trotted out the glamour boys. There, on a stage with local and foreign dignitaries, were two quarterbacks sitting side by side who had passed for more than 6,000 yards each last season.

Between them, Doug Flutie and Dave Archer have torn up a lot of CFL secondaries.

Yesterday, before a news conference that introduced Baltimore as the CFL's 11th franchise, they were the CFL's perfect pitchmen. You want action, you've come to the right place.

"It's more exciting than the NFL game," Flutie said, vouching for the fast-paced CFL game. "Because of the rules, you have more big plays, a better opportunity to come from behind, and most games come down to the wire."

"It's the NBA of football," Archer said. "Wide-open, fast-paced. // No plays are dead."

In only four years, Flutie has passed the CFL into a dizzying new era. He threw for a league-record 6,619 yards and 38 touchdowns in 18 games with the British Columbia Lions in 1991. Last year, playing for the Calgary Stampeders, he threw for 6,092 yards and, gasp, 44 touchdowns.

In his first season in the CFL with the expansion Sacramento Gold Miners last year, Archer threw for 6,023 yards and 35 touchdowns.

"What makes his [statistics] more amazing," Archer said of Flutie, "is that I don't have to deal with the cold like they do up there."

In the long history of the CFL, only one other quarterback has surpassed 6,000 yards. That was Kent Austin with the Saskatchewan Roughriders two years ago -- under Don Matthews, Baltimore's new coach.

"The last five or six years, the quality of offensive personnel has taken off," Flutie said. "We've got guys running 4.3 40s, talented receivers. We started going to no-back sets, and people started saying, 'Let's throw the ball.' "

Flutie, who spent four frustrating seasons in the NFL, doesn't mind taking a shot at his former league. "It's difficult for me to sit down and watch the NFL game," he said. "I get bored."

This was a homecoming of sorts for Flutie, 31, who has been the CFL's outstanding player each of the past three seasons with a total of 120 touchdown passes. Born in Baltimore's St. Agnes Hospital in 1962, he still has relatives here, if only a distant memory of his early childhood.

This was a boffo day for the CFL, the second stop on a three-city odyssey in which commissioner Larry Smith stabilized a franchise in Ottawa and planted new ones in Baltimore and Shreveport, La. Barring a last-minute development, Smith will introduce the Shreveport Pirates as the league's 12th team -- and fourth in the United States -- today.

The coach in Shreveport will be Hall of Famer Forrest Gregg, who coached the Green Bay Packers and Cincinnati Bengals in the NFL.

No fewer than four governors/presidents turned out for yesterday's unveiling at a downtown hotel here. Nick Mileti, who will start up the new Las Vegas Posse with Ron Meyer as coach next season, said he's wanted a CFL team for a while.

"I saw one game three or four years ago and knew I wanted in," said Mileti, who also has owned franchises in the NBA, WFL, WHA and major league baseball. "This is a great product. It's our secret weapon. You can't make that up. The product is either there or it isn't."

Roger Yachetti, chairman of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, endorses the long-range plan of a Canadian division pitted against an American division in the Grey Cup.

"The Grey Cup will become an international festival," he said.

Smith said he wants 18 to 20 teams in the league by 1997, when he can implement the U.S.-vs.-Canada championship format. Among the cities he wants to explore for 1995 are Memphis, Tenn; Nashville, Tenn.; San Antonio, Texas; and Orlando, Fla.

Much to the alarm of Canadian owners, Smith does not rule out the possibility of changing the league's name from CFL to North American Football League.

Dissenters on hand included Yachetti, Winnipeg Blue Bombers president Bruce Robinson and Mileti. Especially Mileti.

"I'll go down to my death before I change the name CFL," he said. "One distinguishing characteristic that attracted me to the CFL was that it has this tremendous heritage. Why take the nub of what makes you unique and change it? Is the NBA going to change its name when it goes into Toronto?"

Baltimore owner Jim Speros, meanwhile, reiterated his stance he will not back down from the NFL's demand he abandon the nickname Colts. His comments drew loud applause from the packed ballroom.

If CFL expansion has arrived big time in the United States, it has big implications in Canada, Archer said.

"It generates more interest in Canada because it's being accepted down here," he said. "It's a strange phenomenon."

DEADLINE EXTENDED

Baltimore's Canadian Football League team has extended the deadline for filing season-ticket reservations without a deposit through Sunday because phone lines have been flooded. Starting Monday, each reservation must be accompanied by a $50 deposit per ticket or $53 for VISA or MasterCard charges. To remain on the team's Gold List, all deposits on tickets must be postmarked by March 8.

Call (410) 321-1983 or send checks to Baltimore Football CFL Inc., P.O. Box 15440, Baltimore, Md. 21220-0440.

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