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BCS has taken fun out of bowl season

As someone who grew up rooting for Notre Dame – going all the way back to Ara Parseghian, Terry Hanratty and the Sunday morning highlights with Lindsay Nelson, who efficiently moved us ahead to further action in the third quarter – you’d think I’d be thrilled with this college football season.

But I’m not.

Other than watching Brian Kelly and Manti Te’o lead the Irish back into the championship chase, I don’t like much of what I’ve been seeing, particularly from fans, coaches and university presidents who have all taken too big a bite from the BCS apple.

To be blunt: I hate the Bowl Championship Series.

I hate the fatally flawed format. I hate that way too many people embrace its champions as legitimate. I hate what it has done to college football.

The BCS has ruined the game, removed even the pretense of amateurism and innocence, drained the sport of its Rockwellian joy.

The BCS has made the college football season all about one game – about a too-often trumped-up national championship game – at the expense of everything else, including conference titles, longtime rivalries and even the other marquee bowl games the money-first BCS is supposed to care about.

And, in so doing, the BCS has made being a college football fan less fun.

Under the BCS regime, it’s no longer good enough to win, to beat your rival, to claim a conference championship and go to a big bowl game. You must win it all, or at least be one of the two teams that have an opportunity to win it all. Anything less is considered a nothing-special season, a disappointment or, in some cases, a failure.

Anything less can put coaches’ jobs in jeopardy, maybe get them fired. It can prompt coaches to leave for jobs that give them a better chance to win it all. It can produce twisted reactions by unrealistic fans that make good coaches feel unappreciated.

Think I’m wrong?

Then why is Georgia coach Mark Richt, whose Bulldogs beat Florida during the season and nearly knocked off No. 2 Alabama in the Southeastern Conference title bout, still being asked questions about his ability to win big games?

I’ll tell you why.

Because, under the wrong-headed BCS scheme, losing the SEC championship game not only took Georgia out of the national championship game, but it also forced the Bulldogs to settle for the Capital One Bowl in Orlando, rather than get the Sugar Bowl invitation they deserved.

Truth be told, college football was better with the traditional bowl tie-ins. It wasn’t perfect. There was plenty of controversy and debate. The rankings were as unscientific and biased as they are now.

But at least the season wasn’t all about one trumped-up, all-or-nothing game that rendered all others meaningless.

If the power brokers running college football want a real national champion decided on the field, they should implement a real playoff with at least eight teams getting a shot at the title.

Instead, we’ve got the annual scam known as the BCS.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m thrilled that Notre Dame is back in the chase.

I’ll watch the game.

The other bowls?

Not all of them. Not most of them. Not anymore.

And because of all the damage done to college football by the BCS, I’m not alone.

Ray McNulty is a columnist for Scripps Howard News Service. His columns appear periodically in The Journal Gazette.