By Shawn Muller–

T-minus three more days until bowl season officially begins when a mediocre BYU Cougars team takes the field against a mediocre UTEP Miners squad in the mediocre (at best) New Mexico Bowl in beautiful Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Wait…it gets even better!

After the New Mexico Bowl, we get the pleasure of having 34 more bowl games at our disposal, bringing the grand total to 35.

I am having trouble containing my excitement!

Just thinking about the Beef O’ Brady Bowl, Little Caesars Bowl, and the always popular Meineke Car Care Bowl get‘s me jacked up!

Ok…so I lied.

Seventy teams qualified to play in bowl games this year…70! There are only 120 Football Bowl Subdivision programs in the entire country!

Now don’t get me wrong, I am a HUGE college football fan, but that number is just absurd. I remember when qualifying to play in a bowl game (especially one on or after January 1st) was an actual reward for a great season.

I think playing in a bowl is great for the players. It is a neat experience for them after all the hard work they put into the season. It is great for the coaches because it allows for more practice time before spring ball begins. It is great for the university because it makes the school money.

I get all that…but here is the problem.

Having too many bowl games dilutes the true meaning of being rewarded for a great season. Is being amongst the 58 percent of teams that qualified for a bowl game this year any sort of an accomplishment? I don’t think so. Teams are being rewarded for being average. I am sorry, but a 6-6 or 7-5 record does not merit a trip to a bowl game. How can a team play in a bowl game that has the chance to finish below .500 on the season with a loss? That is ridiculous!

Becoming “bowl eligible” used to mean something. In 2010, unfortunately, this is not the case. Now teams become bowl “ineligible” as the season progresses.

Bowls like the Bowl, the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, and the BBVA Compass Bowl aren’t just reserved for the Non-AQ (BCS automatic qualifier) schools of the world. The Big Ten’s own Illinois (Texas Bowl) and Northwestern (Ticket City Bowl), to name a few, are also benefiting from the inane bowl-eligibility requirements.

But Illinois and Northwestern aren’t the only area teams benefiting from the outrageous “eligibility” requirements this season. Two former college football “superpowers” are also beneficiaries of the system. Enter Notre Dame and Miami (FL).

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the University of Miami (FL) Hurricanes will not be meeting up in a BCS game or the national championship game in Glendale, Arizona.

They are set to square of in the…wait for it…Hyundai Sun Bowl!

Boy, how the mighty have fallen.

Outside of fans, the players, family members, and alumni, why should anyone care more about the Hyundai Sun Bowl than any other insignificant bowl game? Both teams have matching 7-5 records. Both teams have underachieved. Both teams don’t matter in 2010.

This game should be tabbed as the “Al Bundy Polk High Glory Days” Bowl presented by Pay-Less Shoes. Re-live past accomplishments because your current standing amongst your peers is not what you envisioned it would be years ago when you were once the most popular kid in high school.

The last time these two football programs met, back in 1990, both were national powerhouses. That simply isn’t the case twenty years later. Both schools are a shell of their former selves. The only thing keeping this game from fading into obscurity, just like all the other no-name bowls, is because it is a match up of storied pasts. Nothing more and nothing less.

Since the Fighting Irish last won a national championship, a 34-21 victory of West Virginia in the 1989 Fiesta Bowl, “The Echoes” of Notre Dame have been fast asleep. Last year’s victory over the University of Hawaii in the Hawaii Bowl (another prestigious bowl game) was the first bowl win for the Fighting Irish since the 1994 Cotton Bowl against Texas A&M. In that time-frame (1995-2007), the nine consecutive bowl losses for the Fighting Irish set an NCAA record.

That is not your grandfathers Notre Dame and that is not the mark of a powerhouse program.

Now don’t go running for your pitchforks just yet Notre Dame fans.

I am not saying Notre Dame has fallen into the black abyss of college football and I am definitely not singling your game out. The Irish have put together some impressive seasons, including 5 (if you add 1995-96) BCS bowl berths (all losses I might add) in the same period. Win or lose, the litmus test of a great season is playing in a BCS-level game and Notre Dame had it’s share of great seasons since 1995. If my alma mater had just an ounce of the winning tradition the Fighting Irish have I would be singing from the rooftops. Any fan of any school in the nation would too. 11 National Championships, 7 Heisman Trophy winners, the all-time leader in All-Americans, The Four Horsemen. The list goes on and on.

There comes a time, however, when you can’ just live off of past accomplishments. In today’s cut-throat world of college football, playing in the Hyundai Sun Bowl and the Hawaii Bowl isn’t going to cut it for Notre Dame. Understand that no university is immune to having a period where the program is down, and Notre Dame is weathering it’s down cycle right now. In order to remain as one of the nations premiere football programs, a “blue blood” if you will, things better start changing soon. With a national following, exclusive television contract, top-notch athletic facilities, and top 10 recruiting classes, Sun Bowls are not acceptable for the Fighting Irish. That is not a matter of opinion. That is a matter of fact.

Maybe Brian Kelly is the right man to turn the Irish around.

Or maybe he will become another fall guy on the growing list of excuses regarding the misfortunes of the Irish in South Bend over the past twenty-plus years.

Happy Obscure-Bowl Season Everyone!

I can’t wait…..scratch that…..yes I can.

Do you agree with Shawn? Post your comments below.

Shawn Muller

Shawn Muller has lived in Chicago for 7 years. He is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and just recently received his certificate in radio broadcasting in October of 2010. Sports have always been a passion of Shawn’s. In his free time, Shawn enjoys spending time with his wife Melissa and 3 year old daughter Ava, catching any live sporting event, and traveling. Check out his radio show, “Grab Some Bench with Muller and Bangser” at