College Football Championship Game History

The College Football Championship Game is the final college football bowl game of the year, rounding out the annual Bowl Championship Series. This Bowl Championship Series title game determines which college football team will become that year’s NCAA Division I FBA National Football Champion. The College Football Championship Game was first played following the 1998 college football regular season when the then Pac-10 and Big Ten conferences and the Rose Bowl joined with the Bowl Alliance to form the Bowl Championship Series.

Unlike other collegiate championships, the BCS National Championship is not played in a tournament or playoff format. Instead, the Bowl Championship Series provides a system whereby college football teams are ranked in relation to each other, and the top two teams at the end of the season are invited to a bowl game to determine a national champion. The current BCS ranking formula uses a blend of human voter polls and computer rankings. There are many critics of the BCS format, citing instances where college football teams that have gone undefeated or were ranked #1 by the Associated Press polls were left out of the National Championship game. For example, in 2004, the undefeated Auburn Tigers and University of Utah Utes teams were both excluded from the championship game.

The USA Today Coaches Poll is obligated to name the winner of the BCS title game as the National Champion in its final poll for the season. The winner of the game is awarded both the AFCA National Championship Trophy and the National Football Foundation’s MacArthur Bowl National Championship Trophy.

The predecessor to the Bowl Championship Series was the Bowl Coalition, formed through an agreement among college football bowl games to determine a national champion and provide quality bowl games for the champions of its member conferences. The bowl coalition lasted from 1992-1994, and consisted of only five conferences: SEC, Big 8, Southwest, ACC, and Big East. The Bowl Coalition also consisted of six bowl games: Orange, Sugar, Cotton, Fiesta, Gator and Hancock bowls.

From 1995-1997, the Bowl Alliance determined the college football national champion. The Bowl Alliance officially replaced the Bowl Coalition, and included the SECBig 12ACC and Big East conferences.