NEW YORK — Jim Sweeney is a lenient father. He lets his son Kevin throw a football whenever he wants.
That philosophy allowed Jim Sweeney, the football coach at Fresno State, to recruit Kevin Sweeney as his quarterback. It has also enabled Kevin Sweeney to pass for 8,260 yards in three full seasons to move within 2,319 of Doug Flutie's NCAA career record.
If Sweeney stays healthy, he should break Flutie's record around the ninth or 10th game of the season. In each of the last three seasons Sweeney has thrown for more than 2,300 yards--mainly because his father lives and dies with the passing game.
"I'm not a three yards and a cloud of blood coach," Sweeney said. "Our philosophy is to lead with the pass. The only time you have to run is at the end of the first half, you run off the field to use the bathroom."
Last year Kevin Sweeney passed for 2,604 as the Bulldogs went 11-0-1 and finished as the only Div. I-A unbeaten school. This year the Bulldogs might be even better, but Sweeney will gain most of the attention as he zeroes in on Flutie's mark.
A year ago Brian McClure of Bowling Green entered the season within 2,974 yards of Flutie's record but fell 299 short. Before Fresno State crushed Bowling Green 51-7 in the California Bowl last year, McClure told Sweeney what to expect this season.
"He said as each week went on everything was based on Brian McClure needing a certain average (to stay on pace for the record) and if he didn't get that average, people would ask why not," Sweeney said. "So I'm gonna take it all in stride and just play as hard as I can.
"As it gets closer, I'll be more excited, it would be unnatural not to be. It's like when you were a kid and it was your birthday, you wait all year for it and the next day everybody stopped being so nice to you."
Sweeney threw for 3,259 yards and 20 TDs as a sophomore and guided the nation's highest scoring team (39.1 points per game) as a junior, yet would be overlooked if not for his run at the record.
Sweeney is 6-foot tall, short for a quarterback, and plays in the small Pacific Coast Athletic Conference. He was recruited by Southern Cal and Washington coming out of Bullard (Calif.) High School before his father swayed him to attend Fresno State.
Jim Sweeney needed a quarterback when his son was ready to graduate from high school. He thought he had one in Ron Robinson, but Robinson decided to play baseball and now pitches for the Cincinnati Reds. The father's need for a passer and the son's desire to play in a passing offense brought them together.
"He (Kevin) knew Fresno State was ready to win, but didn't have the quarterback to do it," Jim Sweeney said.
Neither has regrets about carrying their father-son relationship on the field.