Bowl Coalition
In operation19921994
Preceded byNational Polls (1869–1991)
Succeeded byBowl Alliance (19951997)
Number of Coalition bowls
  • Tier 1: 4 each season
  • Tier 2: 3 (1992) or 2 (1993–1994)
Most Coalition bowl appearancesFlorida, Florida St., Miami (FL), Nebraska, Notre Dame (3)
Most Coalition bowl winsFlorida St. (3)
Most Coalition bowl championshipsAlabama, Florida St., Nebraska (1)
Conference with most appearancesACC, Big East, Big 8, SEC, SWC (6)
Conference with most game winsSEC (5)
Conference with most championshipsACC, Big 8, SEC (1)
Last championship game1995 Orange Bowl
Last championNebraska

The College Football Bowl Coalition was formed through an agreement among Division I-A college football bowl games and conferences for the purpose of forcing a national championship game between the top two teams and to provide quality bowl game matchups for the champions of its member conferences. It was established for the 1992 season after there were co-national champions for both 1990 and 1991. The agreement was in place for the 1992, 1993, and 1994 college football seasons. It was the predecessor of the Bowl Alliance (1995–1997), and later the Bowl Championship Series (1998–2013) and the College Football Playoff (since 2014).


Since the AP Poll began crowning its national champion after the bowl games in 1968, the two top-ranked teams going into the bowls had only played each other in a bowl six times, most recently after the 1987 season. This raised the possibility that the two top-ranked teams at the end of the regular season would never meet on the field, even when there was a clear-cut #1 and #2. Following two consecutive seasons of split national championships in 1990 and 1991, there was a renewed effort in devising a system that would force a #1 vs. #2 national championship bowl game.

The College Football Bowl Coalition consisted of five conferences (the SEC, Big 8, SWC, ACC, and Big East), independent Notre Dame, and seven bowl games (the Orange, Sugar, Cotton, Fiesta, Gator, John Hancock/Sun, and, for the 1992 season only, the Blockbuster bowl).[1]

Under the agreement, bowl bids would be extended to the five member conference champions plus five at-large teams. The at-large teams would come from a pool of four member conferences' runners-up (the SEC, Big Eight, SWC, ACC, and Big East), the runner-up of the Pac-10, the SEC's third-place team (since the SEC started playing a championship game in the 1992 season and the championship game loser was tied to the Citrus Bowl) and independent Notre Dame. The Orange, Sugar, Cotton, and Fiesta Bowls were "Tier 1 Bowls" under the Coalition agreement, and the Gator, John Hancock/Sun, and Blockbuster were "Tier 2 Bowls."

The Orange, Sugar, and Cotton bowls retained their long-standing agreements to invite the Big 8, SEC, and SWC champions, respectively. According to the initial Bowl Coalition rules, if champions from these conferences were ranked No. 1 and No. 2, they would not have played each other in a national championship game and instead each gone to their respective traditional bowl.[2]

In later years,[citation needed] the Big 8, SEC, and SWC champions would be released to play in another bowl if it was necessary to force a "title game." For example, if the SEC and SWC champions were ranked first and second, the Cotton Bowl would have released the SWC champ to play in the Sugar Bowl, or the Sugar Bowl would have released the SEC champ to play in the Cotton Bowl. This did not happen in any of the three years, as either the Big East or ACC champion qualified for the championship in those years.

The top "host" team played the top "at-large" team in the host team's affiliated bowl. Slots for the games were chosen by the "Bowl Poll," in which the points from the AP and Coaches polls were combined. If the top 2 teams were both "at-large", then the Fiesta would have hosted the "title game." The #3 team from the SEC hosted the Gator Bowl.

The system worked perfectly in its first year. Big East champion Miami was ranked first in both polls, while SEC champion Alabama was ranked second. As Big East champion, Miami was free to choose a bowl,[citation needed] and it opted to face Alabama in the 1993 Sugar Bowl, forcing the first bowl matchup between the consensus #1 and #2 teams since 1987.


The Coalition was flawed in several respects. Most significantly, it did not include the champions of the Big Ten and Pac-10, both of whom were contractually obligated to play in the Rose Bowl. The Coalition's founders tried to get the Tournament of Roses Association to release the Big Ten and Pac-10 champions to play in a title game if one of them was ranked #1 or #2 in the Bowl Poll, but it refused to do so due to concerns about this potentially violating its television contract with ABC.

The possibility also still existed that an undefeated and untied team would not get a chance to play for the national championship. This actually occurred during the 1993 season. Nebraska and West Virginia both finished the season undefeated and untied. However, West Virginia, ranked #2 in the final regular season Coaches Poll behind #1 Nebraska, and was ranked #3 in the final regular season AP Poll behind #1 Florida State and #2 Nebraska. The margin between West Virginia and Florida State was large enough to drop the Mountaineers to third in the Bowl Coalition Poll, forcing them to settle for a berth in the Sugar Bowl.

Also, the Coalition did not include the so-called "mid-major" I-A conferences—the WAC, Big West, and Mid-American, nor any of the Division I-A independents other than Notre Dame. However, it was argued that most of these schools did not have schedules strong enough to be legitimate title contenders. For example, when BYU won the national championship in 1984—the last time a team from a mid-major conference has won a consensus national championship to date (UCF claimed a national championship in 2017)—some college football pundits argued that the Cougars had not played a legitimate schedule. BYU had only played one ranked team all season, and only two of the Cougars' opponents won more than seven games. Despite criticism of their schedule, the Cougars were a near-unanimous pick as national champion at the end of the season. The Coalition's exclusion of mid-major conferences made it difficult for this to ever happen again.


The Bowl Coalition's demise came about, in large part, as the result of two events that occurred in the 1994 season. First, the Southwest Conference, which had seen a marked decline in its quality of play over the past decade, announced it would dissolve after the 1995 season. Also, Notre Dame slipped from 10–1–1 in 1992 and 11–1 in 1993 to 6–4–1 in 1994. Notre Dame was still invited to the Fiesta Bowl in the 1994 season, losing 41–24 to Colorado in a game played on January 2, 1995. The sudden fall of Notre Dame led some involved in the Bowl Coalition to be concerned about the possibility of Notre Dame failing to win the minimum six games to be eligible for a bowl invitation. To alleviate these concerns, before the 1995 season the Bowl Coalition was reconfigured into the Bowl Alliance, breaking up the conference tie-ins and tweaking a system that still did not include the Big Ten and the Pac 10.

The final year of the Bowl Coalition saw its formula break down completely, as the situation it was designed to prevent (a split national championship) presented itself as a serious possibility. Nebraska finished the season at #1 in the AP and coaches' polls while Penn State was #2 in both polls. Both schools had gone undefeated in the regular season as well. Penn State, however, had decided shortly after the Bowl Coalition was formed to give up their independent football status and join a conference. That conference was the Big Ten, which as mentioned had no ties to the coalition and whose champion was contractually obligated to play in the Rose Bowl. Nebraska, as Big Eight champion, qualified automatically for the Orange Bowl. Since the #2 team in the polls was unavailable, the coalition invited the next highest ranked team, #3 Miami, to face Nebraska in its national championship game. The Orange Bowl was scheduled for New Year's night in Miami, while Penn State would face Oregon the following afternoon in the Rose Bowl (New Year's Day fell on a Sunday in 1995; when this happens bowls scheduled for January 1 are typically moved back one day). This meant that not only would there be a split championship if Miami won, but that Penn State's fate could be sealed before they even had a chance to play their game. In the end Nebraska defeated Miami to win the Orange Bowl and became consensus champions despite Penn State's win over Oregon in the Rose Bowl.

One legacy of the Bowl Coalition was that it cemented the status of the Fiesta Bowl as a major bowl. The Fiesta Bowl was by far the youngest of the "Tier 1" bowls. Indeed, it was the only "Tier 1" bowl that was less than a half-century old at the time, and was far newer than the "Tier 2" Gator and Sun Bowls.

Bowl Coalition games

1992 season

Tier I
Bowl Date Winner Con. Score Loser Con. Score
Cotton January 1, 1993 5 Notre Dame (10–1–1) Ind. 28 4 Texas A&M (12–1) SWC 3
Fiesta January 1, 1993 6 Syracuse (10–2) Big East #2 26 10 Colorado (9–2–1) Big 8 #2 22
Orange January 1, 1993 3 Florida State (11–1) ACC 27 11 Nebraska (9–3) Big 8 14
Sugar January 1, 1993 2 Alabama (12–0) SEC 34 1 Miami (FL) (11–0) Big East 13
Tier II
Bowl Date Winner Con. Score Loser Con. Score
Hancock December 31, 1992 Baylor (7–5) SWC #2 20 22 Arizona (6–5–1) Pac-10 15
Gator December 31, 1992 14 Florida (9–4) SEC #3 27 12 NC State (9–3–1) ACC #2 10
Blockbuster January 1, 1993 13 Stanford (9–3) Pac-10 #2 24 21 Penn State (7–5) Ind. 3

1993 season

Tier I
Bowl Date Winner Con. Score Loser Con. Score
Cotton January 1, 1994 4 Notre Dame (10–1) Ind. 24 7 Texas A&M (10–1) SWC 21
Fiesta January 1, 1994 16 Arizona (9–2) Pac-10 #2 29 10 Miami (FL) (9–2) Big East #2 0
Sugar January 1, 1994 8 Florida (10–2) SEC 41 3 West Virginia (11–0) Big East 7
Orange January 1, 1994 1 Florida State (11–1) ACC 18 2 Nebraska (11–0) Big 8 16
Tier II
Bowl Date Winner Con. Score Loser Con. Score
Hancock December 24, 1993 19 Oklahoma (8–3) Big 8 #2 41 Texas Tech (6–5) SWC #2 10
Gator December 31, 1993 18 Alabama (8–3–1) SEC #3 24 12 North Carolina (10–2) ACC #2 10

1994 season

Tier I
Bowl Date Winner Con. Score Loser Con. Score
Cotton January 2, 1995 21 USC (7–3–1) Pac-10 #2 55 Texas Tech (6–5) SWC 14
Fiesta January 2, 1995 4 Colorado (10–1) Big 8 #2 41 Notre Dame (6–4–1) Ind. 24
Sugar January 2, 1995 7 Florida State (9–1–1) ACC 23 5 Florida (10–1–1) SEC 17
Orange January 1, 1995 1 Nebraska (12–0) Big 8 24 3 Miami (10–1) Big East 17
Tier II
Bowl Date Winner Con. Score Loser Con. Score
Sun December 30, 1994 Texas (8–3) SWC #2 35 19 North Carolina (8–3) ACC #2 31
Gator December 30, 1994 Tennessee (7–4) SEC #3 45 17 Virginia Tech (8–3) Big East #2 23



Bowl Coalition appearances by team

Appearances School W L Pct Games
3 Florida State 3 0 1.000 Won 1993 Orange Bowl
Won 1994 Orange Bowl+
Won 1995 Sugar Bowl (January)
3 Florida 2 1 .666 Won 1992 Gator Bowl
Won 1994 Sugar Bowl
Lost 1995 Sugar Bowl (January)
3 Notre Dame 2 1 .666 Won 1993 Cotton Bowl Classic
Won 1994 Cotton Bowl Classic
Lost 1995 Fiesta Bowl
3 Nebraska 1 2 0.333 Lost 1993 Orange Bowl
Lost 1994 Orange Bowl+
Won 1995 Orange Bowl+
3 Miami (FL) 0 3 .000 Lost 1993 Sugar Bowl+
Lost 1994 Fiesta Bowl
Lost 1995 Orange Bowl+
2 Alabama 2 0 1.000 Won 1993 Sugar Bowl+
Won 1993 Gator Bowl
2 Arizona 1 1 .500 Lost 1992 John Hancock Bowl
Won 1994 Fiesta Bowl
2 Colorado 1 1 .500 Lost 1993 Fiesta Bowl
Won 1994 Fiesta Bowl
2 North Carolina 0 2 .000 Lost 1993 Gator Bowl
Lost 1994 Sun Bowl
2 Texas A&M 0 2 .000 Lost 1993 Cotton Bowl Classic
Lost 1994 Cotton Bowl Classic
2 Texas Tech 0 2 .000 Lost 1993 John Hancock Bowl
Lost1995 Cotton Bowl Classic
1 Baylor 1 0 1.000 Won 1992 John Hancock Bowl
1 Oklahoma 1 0 1.000 Won 1993 John Hancock Bowl
1 Stanford 1 0 1.000 Won 1993 Blockbuster Bowl
1 Syracuse 1 0 1.000 Won 1993 Fiesta Bowl
1 Tennessee 1 0 1.000 Won 1994 Gator Bowl
1 Texas 1 0 1.000 Won 1994 Sun Bowl
1 USC 1 0 1.000 Won 1995 Cotton Bowl Classic
1 N.C. State 0 1 .000 Lost 1992 Gator Bowl
1 Penn State 0 1 .000 Lost 1993 Blockbuster Bowl
1 Virginia Tech 0 1 .000 Lost 1994 Gator Bowl
1 West Virginia 0 1 .000 Lost 1994 Sugar Bowl

+ Denotes Bowl Coalition National Championship Game

Bowl Coalition National Championship Game appearances by team

Appearances School W L Pct Games
2 Nebraska 1 1 .500 Lost 1994 Orange Bowl
Won 1995 Orange Bowl
2 Miami (FL) 0 2 .000 Lost 1993 Sugar Bowl
Lost 1995 Orange Bowl
1 Alabama 1 0 1.000 Won 1993 Sugar Bowl
1 Florida State 1 0 1.000 Won 1994 Orange Bowl

Bowl Coalition appearances by conference

Conference Appearances W L Pct # Schools School(s)
SEC 6 5 1 .833 3 Florida (2–1)
Alabama (2–0)
Tennessee (1–0)
Big 8 6 3 3 .500 3 Nebraska (1–2)
Colorado (1–1)
Oklahoma (1–0)
ACC 6 3 3 .500 3 Florida State (3–0)
North Carolina (0–2)
NC State (0–1)
SWC 6 2 4 .333 4 Texas A&M (0–2)
Texas Tech (0–2)
Texas (1–0)
Baylor (1–0)
Big East 6 1 5 .167 4 Miami, FL (0–3)
Syracuse (1–0)
Virginia Tech (0–1)
West Virginia (0–1)
Pac-10 4 3 1 .750 3 Arizona (1–1)
USC (1–0)
Stanford (1–0)
Independent 4 2 2 .500 2 Notre Dame (2–1)
Penn State (0–1)

Bowl Coalition National Championship Game appearances by conference

Conference Appearances W L Pct # Schools School(s)
Big 8 2 1 1 .500 1 Nebraska (1–1)
Big East 2 0 2 .000 1 Miami, FL (0–2)
SEC 1 1 0 1.000 1 Alabama (1–0)
ACC 1 1 0 1.000 1 Florida State (1–0)

Heisman Trophy winners in Bowl Coalition National Championship Games

Season Player School Result Stats Notes
1992 Gino Torretta Miami (FL) L 24-56-3, 278 yards, 0 TD; 5-1 rush
1993 Charlie Ward Florida State W 24-43-0, 286, 0 TD; 8-(-3) rush


  1. ^ Fachet, Robert (January 24, 1992). "Bowl Deal Set with Coalition". The Washington Post. Retrieved August 10, 2022. ...under an agreement hammered out yesterday by the College Football Bowl Coalition that also provides enhanced opportunity for a national championship game.
  2. ^ Fachet, Robert (January 24, 1992). "Bowl Deal Set with Coalition". The Washington Post. Retrieved August 10, 2022. And the Big Eight, Southwest and Southeastern winners could not be paired if they are 1 or 2 because of their commitments to different bowls.

Works cited