Bowl Alliance
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Bowl Alliance
Bowl Alliance
In operation1995-1997
Preceded byBowl Coalition (1992-1994)
Succeeded byBowl Championship Series (1998-2013)
Number of Alliance games3 per season
Championship trophyAFCA National Championship Trophy
Television partner(s)ABC and CBS
Most Bowl Alliance appearancesFlorida St, Nebraska (3)
Most Bowl Alliance winsNebraska (3)
Most Bowl Alliance championshipsNebraska (2)
Conference with most appearancesBig 12 (4)
Conference with most game winsBig 12 (3)
Conference with most championshipsBig 8, Big 12, SEC (1)
Last championship game1998 Orange Bowl
Last championNebraska

The Bowl Alliance was an agreement among college football bowl games (specifically the Sugar, Orange, and Fiesta Bowls) for the purpose of trying to match the top two teams in a national championship bowl game and to provide quality bowl game matchups for the champions of its member conferences. The agreement was in place for the 1995, 1996, and 1997 seasons and had replaced the Bowl Coalition. Each participating team in the Bowl Alliance Championship received $8.5 million from the television sponsors.[1]


In its beginnings, the Bowl Alliance involved the SEC, Big Eight, SWC, ACC, and Big East conference champions, as well as independent Notre Dame. Because of this, only one at-large slot was available for teams to vie for. With the disbanding of the Big Eight and SWC following the 1995 football season and the formation of the Big 12 Conference in its wake, an additional at-large bid became available. The Alliance bowls were held on three successive days in each of the three years of the Alliance's existence with one game played on New Year's Eve, one on New Year's Day, and one on January 2. A Bowl Alliance Poll was formed by adding together the point totals from AP Poll and Coaches' Poll. The top two ranked teams from the Alliance conferences met in the Bowl Alliance national championship game, which rotated between the three Alliance bowls and was always held on January 2. Whoever won that game was guaranteed to be declared national champion at least in the Coaches' Poll, as they were locked into naming whoever won as their national champion. The AP Poll retained its autonomy.

Because the Big Ten and Pac-10 conferences were contractually tied to the Rose Bowl via automatic bids for their conference champions, their conference champions could not participate in the Alliance Bowls. Nevertheless, the conferences could be represented in the games if one of their teams procured an at-large bid to a Bowl Alliance game. This occurred twice, with Penn State and Ohio State playing in the Fiesta and Sugar Bowls in 1997 and 1998.

CBS and ABC split television coverage of the Bowl Alliance, with CBS acquiring the rights to the Orange and Fiesta Bowls from NBC following their 1995 playings and ABC already being in possession of the Sugar Bowl rights as they had been since 1970.

In the last two years of the Bowl Alliance, the possibility existed for a split national championship. In 1996, No. 1 Florida State played No. 3 Florida for the national championship in the Sugar Bowl while No. 2 Pac-10 champion Arizona State was locked into playing in the Rose Bowl against No. 4 Ohio State. Arizona State lost to Ohio State in the 1997 Rose Bowl, ending the possibility for a split national championship for that season. In 1997, No. 1 Michigan as Big Ten Champion was locked into playing No. 8 Washington State in the Rose Bowl. However, for the 1997 season a split national championship became reality as Michigan would win a back-and-forth game in the 1998 Rose Bowl, but only keep their No. 1 ranking in the AP Poll, despite being the top team in both the AP and Coaches' polls prior to the bowl season. The consensus No. 2 and undefeated Nebraska team would be voted No. 1 in the final Coaches's poll after their dominant 42-17 win over Peyton Manning and No. 3 Tennessee.

Following the 1997 season the Bowl Alliance's member conferences and bowls joined with the Big Ten and Pac-10 conferences and the Rose Bowl to form the Bowl Championship Series beginning with the 1998 college football season.


Because the Bowl Alliance failed to include the Pac-10, Big Ten (and thus the Rose Bowl), or any so-called mid-major conferences, the Bowl Alliance was reformed just three years after it began. BYU's performance opened the door for mid-major conferences to participate in upper-tier bowls as well. In 1996, despite 18 conference championships in 23 years, one of the winningest records in college football and a #5 ranking in the AP poll, BYU was excluded from a Bowl Alliance bowl and was relegated to the Cotton Bowl (which of the major bowls had been left out when the Bowl Coalition was reformed into the Bowl Alliance), beating Kansas State to finish the season 14-1. The Bowl Coalition was at risk of antitrust enforcement because of its monopoly limiting participation in the most recognized bowls to members of just a few conferences. LaVell Edwards, BYU's head coach, testified in Congress at that time about the inherent unfairness in recruiting for teams who were excluded from bowls simply because of conference affiliation. With the pressure of potential Congressional action, the Bowl Alliance reformed into the Bowl Championship Series that not only included the Big Ten and the Pac-10 conference but also cracked open the door to allow the possibility of a "mid-major" team's participation.

History and schedule

1995-96 season

1996-97 season

1997-98 season

Rankings are from the Bowl Alliance Poll prior to bowl games.
1996 Season: #2 Arizona State (11-0) lost to #4 Ohio State in the Rose Bowl on January 1, 1997.
1997 Season: #2 Nebraska (13-0) would win the Coaches' Poll National Championship, while #1 Michigan, (12-0) and winners of the Rose Bowl, won the Associated Press National Championship.


Bowl Alliance appearances by team

+ Denotes Bowl Alliance National Championship Game

Bowl Alliance National Championship Game appearances by team

Appearances School W L Pct Games
2 Nebraska 2 0 1.000 Won 1996 Fiesta Bowl
Won 1998 Orange Bowl
2 Florida 1 1 .500 Lost 1996 Fiesta Bowl
Won 1997 Sugar Bowl
1 Florida State 0 1 .000 Lost 1997 Sugar Bowl
1 Tennessee 0 1 .000 Lost 1998 Orange Bowl

Bowl Alliance appearances by conference

Conference Appearances W L Pct # Schools School(s)
Big 12 4 3 1 .750 3 Nebraska (2-0)
Kansas State (1-0)
Texas (0-1)
ACC 3 2 1 .667 1 Florida State (2-1)
Big East 3 1 2 .333 2 Virginia Tech (1-1)
Syracuse (0-1)
SEC 3 1 2 .333 2 Florida (1-1)
Tennessee (0-1)
Big Ten 2 1 1 .500 2 Penn State (1-0)
Ohio State (0-1)
Big 8 1 1 0 1.000 1 Nebraska (1-0)
Independent 1 0 1 .000 1 Notre Dame (0-1)
SWC 1 0 1 .000 1 Texas (0-1)

Bowl Alliance National Championship Game appearances by conference

Conference Appearances W L Pct # Schools School(s)
Big 8 1 1 0 1.000 1 Nebraska (1-0)
Big 12 1 1 0 1.000 1 Nebraska (1-0)
SEC 3 1 2 .333 2 Florida (1-1)
Tennessee (0-1)
ACC 1 0 1 .000 1 Florida State (0-1)


  1. ^ "College Football '95: The Bowl Alliance; One More Time at Trying To Insure No. 1 vs. No. 2". New York Times. 1995-08-27.

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