SASKATOON -- Quarterback Chris Flynn, who elevated the profile of Canadian university football in the late-1980s, almost certainly has a bust and a ring in his future.
Flynn — who won three Hec Crighton Awards as Canada’s outstanding player during a dominant quarterbacking career at Saint Mary’s — is an early favourite to lead the charge when the Canadian Football Hall of Fame begins inducting amateur players in 2011.
The decision to throw the door open applies to Canadian Interuniversity Sport and junior players whose accomplishments might otherwise have settled into the memory banks of a small collection of devotees.
One amateur player, selected from a list of three finalists, will be inducted each year.
“We’re not the CFL Hall of Fame. We’re the Canadian Football Hall of Fame,” notes Hall executive director Mark DeNobile. “We represent all the football in Canada — that includes CIS, amateur, everybody to do with football. We wanted to make it more inclusive of all the members who should be in the Hall of Fame.”
That logic sits well with former Calgary Dinos quarterback Greg Vavra, who won the 1983 Hec Crighton. Vavra had his number retired by the Dinos, and at some point may be considered for a spot in the Hall.
“There’s no question it’s nice we have that potential to be recognized,” said Vavra, who is currently the Dinos’ offensive co-ordinator. “It’s great to have your name in the running as a potential candidate — to know that even though I played a long time ago, what I did in the game and for the game is recognized and still remembered by some.”
The decision to include Canadian university and junior players is part of an overhaul in the Hall’s induction process.
A new veterans committee will also look at professional players who have dropped off the 25-year window for induction. Two builders will also be brought in annually rather than the traditional one.
The move to induct university players met mostly with approval within football circles. But Vancouver broadcaster Jim Mullin, who was instrumental in the process, said not everybody wanted it done.
“Some of those (negative) voices have been from certain individuals within the CFL and some front offices,” said Mullin, who heads up the six-man amateur subcommittee that will recommend the three nominees for the 2011 class. “There’s the perception that this should be about excellence at the very highest level.
“And university football, of course, is not at the level professional football is. Some people will argue that junior football isn’t at the level university football is. But when there’s certain individuals who made career achievements over a four or five-year path, and they’ve been consistent about it, and they’ve attracted people to the game, those are the things that need to be recognized. And that’s been the point of this all.”
Initial discussions Mullin had with the Hall centred around a separate amateur wing that would showcase CIS players. That evolved into the current reality — one player, inducted into the Hall, as a full-fledged member with the accompanying bust, ring, jacket and gala.
“(Former Mount Allison star running back) Eric Lapointe is a perfect example,” Mullin says. “He was playing in an area where there isn’t a CFL team, putting fantastic numbers up, entertaining people. He had to have inspired a number of Quebec and Atlantic players to get involved in the game. In an odd way, a lot of these players at the university level who put these tremendous career numbers up, are also builders in their own sort of way. They inspire others to participate in the game.”
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