Boston College football star Doug Flutie has had his stolen helmet returned to him in plenty of time for the Cotton Bowl Jan. 1.

"I'm in the Christmas spirit, so I'm giving it back," said a young man who admitted stealing the helmet when he turned it over yesterday to the Boston Herald newspaper. "A lot of people said it wasn't right to take it, but I'm giving it back.

"It is stealing, but it's not like breaking into someone's house," said the thief, who refused to give his name or age. "Even though I did something bad, I'm making up for it."

Flutie, the quarterback who won this year's Heisman trophy, was not available for comment, but his father Richard said his son had been anxious to get the helmet back before the Cotton Bowl game against Houston.

Richard Flutie said his son was worried the theft was a "bad omen."

The thief, who told the Herald he was in his mid-20s and lived "near here," said he slipped into the Boston College locker room after watching practice Thursday. "I was just looking around the dressing room, going by the lockers, figuring I'd pick up a souvenir," he said. "I saw the helmet and I stuffed it under my jacket."

The thief said he and a few friends posed for pictures with the helmet and drank beer before they started thinking about giving it back. "After all he's done for Boston fans, and I enjoyed him, I couldn't keep it," he said. "That helmet has been seen all over TV. He won the Heisman in it" . . .

Team doctors for Brigham Young believe quarterback Robbie Bosco will not need surgery for the injuries he suffered in BYU's 24-17 Holiday Bowl victory over Michigan, university officials said.

Bosco's left knee and ankle were injured Friday night in the first half of the game in San Diego . . .

Georgia President Fred Davison says the NCAA's six-month investigation of the school's athletic department is within two weeks of being completed.

Davison said Saturday he expects a decision on the investigations of the school's football and men's and women's basketball programs to be completed "within 10 to 14 days."

The Atlanta Journal and Constitution reported it had learned the investigation into the football program involves the alleged purchase of meals for high school prospects, loaning of a car to a player by an assistant coach and the selling of free tickets given to members of the team.

The probe of the men's basketball team concerns the recruiting of former Marietta, Ga., star Cedric Henderson, who committed to Louisville before signing with Georgia.