Bowls have had affiliations and relationships with conferences for many years. Most notably, the Big Ten and Pac-10 champions met in the Rose Bowl every year from January 1947 until the inception of the BCS. Other conferences developed similar relationships with other bowls-for example, the Big Eight Conference with the Orange, Southeastern with the Sugar and Southwest with the Cotton. Those bowls selected the best available teams to play their affiliated conference champs.
The relationships proved valuable to both the bowls and the conferences. Because of these affiliations, a berth in a particular bowl became the reward for a conference championship. The close ties between institutions in a conference and a particular bowl encouraged fans to travel to the host city and helped the bowls develop solid economic bases from which they have supported many educational, charitable and community initiatives. Today, conference-and-bowl affiliations remain a vital part of college football.
However, the prevalence of conference-bowl affiliation arrangements usually precluded matchups between highly ranked conference champions because the champion of one conference might be committed to participate in one bowl game and the champion of another conference might be committed to play in another game. Thus the bowl system was not particularly suited to matching the top two teams in a national championship game.
After a lengthy series of meetings in 1991 and early 1992, the commissioners of several conferences and representatives of Notre Dame, along with four bowl committees, created the Bowl Coalition agreement. The Coalition provided a structure which enabled the champions of the Big East Conference and Atlantic Coast Conference and Notre Dame to meet either the champion of the Big Eight (in the Orange Bowl), Southeastern (Sugar Bowl) or Southwest (Cotton Bowl) conferences.
In addition, if the champions of the Big East or ACC or Notre Dame had been ranked No. 1 or 2 at the end of the regular season, they would have met in the Fiesta Bowl for the national championship. Their vacated spots in either the Orange, Sugar or Cotton Bowls would have been filled from a pool of at-large teams made up of the number two teams from the Atlantic Coast, Big East, Big Eight, Pac-10 and Southwest conferences. To guarantee those at-large teams a post-season home, the conferences contracted with the Gator and John Hancock Bowls to provide three additional slots for number two teams.
The Coalition was in place for the bowl games after the 1992, 1993 and 1994 regular seasons.
In the previous 56 years of post-season play, the number one and number two teams had met only eight times. Given its narrow parameters and aims, the Coalition arrangement was quite successful-it paired the top two teams in two of the three years that it existed. But it had limitations. It could not, for example, pair the champions of the Big Eight and SEC in any bowl game. And because neither the Big Ten nor Pacific-10 champions participated, the Coalition could not pair either of those champions with an opponent from another conference.
The Coalition was a nine-year contractual agreement, subject to review every three years. After the first three years, in January 1995, at the same time that a number of the existing conference-bowl affiliation arrangements also expired, the parties agreed to end the agreement in favor of an improved system-the Bowl Alliance.
In 1995, the relationships between the conferences (except the Big Ten and Pac-10) and the bowls were modified in order to retain the historic bowl venues while increasing the likelihood of matching the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the country.
The Alliance system was designed to allow the champions of the Atlantic Coast, Big East, Big Eight, Southeastern and Southwest Conferences along with an at-large team to be matched in the three alliance bowls-Fiesta, Sugar and Orange. A second at-large team was added beginning with the 1996 regular season when the Big 12 Conference replaced the old Big Eight and Southwest Conferences.
The Bowl Alliance instituted two major changes which enhanced the opportunity to produce a national championship game. It eliminated conference-champion tie-ins in the three bowls, which gave those bowls the flexibility to choose the best match-ups. And it included two at-large spots which were open to all Division I-A teams that won at least eight regular season games or were ranked in the top 12 or no lower than the lowest-ranked conference champion participating in the Alliance.
None of the participating conference champions was committed to play in any bowl game as they had been in the past under the conference-bowl affiliation arrangements. This selection procedure permitted the Alliance bowls to match conference champions in games that would not have been played under the previous conference-bowl affiliation arrangements. For example, after the 1995 regular season, the Alliance arrangement created a national championship game in the Fiesta Bowl between the only two unbeaten teams in the nation, Nebraska and Florida.
The Alliance continued for three seasons - the bowl games after the 1995, 1996 and 1997 regular seasons.
Although the Alliance was successful, the conference commissioners and chief executive officers began discussions about the possibility of integrating the Big Ten and Pac-10 champions into a bowl arrangement that would allow for an annual pairing of the top two teams in the nation. The Big Ten, Pac-10 and Rose Bowl agreed that the Rose Bowl would host a national championship game in rotation with the other bowls, and that the Big Ten or Pac-10 champions would not play their traditional game in Pasadena on New Year's Day if the teams were ranked No. 1 or No. 2. Similarly, the Fiesta, Orange and Sugar Bowls enthusiastically supported the new approach, which was informally called the "Super Alliance." Later, of course, it became the Bowl Championship Series.
From the beginning, the BCS was designed to pair the two top-rated teams in a national championship game and to create competitive matchups among highly regarded teams in three other games as part of the bowl system. However, it was not intended that the next six ranked teams automatically would be either paired in the other three bowls, or even guaranteed participation. The bowls were to be provided flexibility to exercise freedom of selection that would create locally attractive games to enhance ticket sales.
A new mathematical formula, the BCS standings, was created to determine the participants. The standings consisted of four elements: subjective polls of writers and coaches, the average of three computer rankings (Sagarin, Seattle Times and New York Times), the teams' records, and a strength-of-schedule index based on the records of a team's opponents and its opponents' opponents.
The champions of the six founding conferences (Atlantic Coast, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-10 and Southeastern) were awarded annual automatic qualification.
Also, any Division I-A independent team or champion of the Western Athletic Conference, Conference USA or any other Division I-A conference qualified for a berth if it ranked sixth or higher in the BCS standings. If such a team did qualify by finishing sixth or higher, Notre Dame also would qualify if it was ranked in the top 10 in the final BCS standings or had won at least nine games. If more than two teams met the standard, the bowls would select their participants from among the qualifiers.
If berths remained open after all automatic qualifiers were identified, the bowls would select their participants from a pool of eligible at-large teams. The pool was comprised of all Division I-A teams that won at least eight games and were ranked among the top 12 teams in the BCS standings.
A four-year rotation of BCS championship game sites was established: Fiesta Bowl, then Sugar, Orange and Rose.
The system marked the return of regional consideration regarding team selection, which had been absent in the Alliance. Unless the bowl was hosting the national championship, or the teams qualified to play in the national championship in another bowl, the conference champions were assigned to play in the following designated bowls:
Big Ten - Rose Bowl
Pac-10 - Rose Bowl
Big 12 - Fiesta Bowl
Southeastern - Sugar Bowl
ACC or Big East - Orange Bowl
ABC and the BCS signatories signed a four-year agreement to televise the games of January 1999, 2000, 2001 and 2002.
The conferences agreed that if a BCS bowl lost a host team to the national championship game, then that bowl would be the first to select a replacement team. If two BCS bowls lost their host teams, the bowl losing the No. 1 team would have the first at-large selection, followed by the bowl losing the No. 2 team.
If a conference had a runner-up team in the national championship game, its actual champion was not guaranteed a berth in another BCS game.
The first BCS standings were published on November 17. The standings were published four times, with the final version released on selection Sunday, December 6.
The conferences agreed that if a second team from one of the six automatic-qualifying conferences was selected for a BCS game, the conference would receive $6 million for its appearance.
Five more computer rankings were added, making a total of eight in the standings. The new five were Billingsley, Dunkel, Massey, Matthews/Scripps Howard and Rothman. Each team's highest seven rankings were averaged to determine the computer component of the standings.
Beginning with the 1999 regular season, each conference was subject to review and possible loss of its automatic-qualifier status should the conference champion not have an average ranking of 12 or higher over a four-year period.
The criteria for eligibility for at-large consideration was changed from eight victories to nine victories.
The release of the first BCS standings was moved earlier, from November 17 to the Monday after the games of October 23.
The interest income credited to each conference was used to pay the operating expenses of the arrangement.
The National Football Foundation began compiling the BCS standings.
The television contract with ABC was extended to cover the games of 2002-2006.
Beginning with the 2001 regular season, the Dunkel rankings and New York Times poll were no longer used in the BCS standings. Rankings from Dr. Peter Wolfe and Wes Colley were added, leaving a total of eight. Each team's highest and lowest computer ranking was disregarded, then the remaining six were averaged to determine the computer component of the standings.
To further emphasize the importance of a team's strength of schedule, a fifth component, "quality wins," was added to the standings formula. Teams with regular-season victories over opponents ranked in the top 15 of the BCS standings received bonus points-from 1.5 points for a victory over the top-ranked team to 0.1 points for a victory over the team ranked No. 15.
The commissioners voted that the highest-ranked at-large team, if ranked either third or fourth in the BCS standings, would receive an automatic berth, if a spot was available after all other automatic qualifiers were awarded berths.
The length of halftime was reduced from 22 to 20 minutes.
It was agreed that each participating institution's home radio market could include all stations in the home state and those out-of-state stations that were located within a 75-mile radius of the campus that carried at least 50 percent of the institution's regular-season games.
The BCS standings were released at 10:30 p.m. Eastern time, each Monday, and were distributed to the print media earlier to allow preparation of news stories.
The commissioners agreed that margin of victory was not an appropriate element in the standings and accordingly removed the Matthews and Rothman rankings from the formula. The New York Times ranking returned, resulting in a total of seven computer rankings for the 2002 season. Only the lowest score was eliminated before averaging the remaining six computer rankings.
The conferences purchased game-cancellation insurance for the income from the BCS bowls effective with the games after the 2002 regular season.
The commissioners agreed that a team on probation would be included in the BCS standings with an asterisk noting that it was not bowl-eligible.
It was decided that if the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the BCS standings were from the same conference but neither was the conference champion, since no conference could be represented by more than two teams, the conference champion was eliminated from consideration.
Similarly if an automatic-qualifying conference had a team ranked No. 1 or No. 2 in the BCS standings and a second team ranked No. 3 or No. 4, none of which was the conference champion, the conference champion would be excluded from consideration.
The first BCS standings were released on the third Monday in October. ESPN had the exclusive right to release the standings at 6 p.m. Eastern time each week.
It was agreed that the Orange Bowl would begin selecting its host conference (either ACC or Big East) before the start of the season, effective with the 2004 regular season.
The selection procedures were changed in two ways, effective with the 2003 regular season:
- If an automatic-qualifying conference had a team ranked either No. 1 or No. 2 in the BCS standings and a second team ranked either No. 3 or No. 4, neither of which was the conference champion, and the conference champion was ranked No. 5 or lower, the team ranked No. 3 or No. 4 would not be eligible for a berth in the BCS.
- If a bowl lost the No. 1 team to the championship game, then the replacement team could not be a team from the same conference as the team ranked No. 2 was also a conference champion, unless the bowl hosting the No. 2 team consents.
The Presidential Oversight Committee and Athletics Directors Advisory Committee were instituted to be a part of the governance of the BCS.
The commissioners requested that the American Football Coaches Association and the Associated Press delay the release of their first polls until the first week of October so that the polls would contain data reflecting only the results of the current season. The two organizations were unable to do so.
As the result of a landmark February meeting, the chief executive officers representing all 11 Division I-A conferences and Notre Dame increased the opportunities for Division I-A institutions to participate, adjusted revenue distribution formulas to recognize the participation of institutions that were not founders of the BCS and agreed in principle to eliminate any adverse consequences of branding that may have unintentionally resulted from the previous contractual arrangements.
A fifth BCS bowl game, the National Championship Game, would be implemented for the four-year cycle beginning with the 2006 regular season. The game would be played on a rotating basis at the site of the Fiesta, Sugar, Orange and Rose Bowls one week after the other four bowl games. The previous rotation-Fiesta, then Sugar, Orange, Rose-was continued.
The composition of the Presidential Oversight Committee was revised to include one member from each of the conferences with an annual automatic berth, and two at-large positions, one of which must be filled by a representative of Conference USA, the Mid-American Conference, the Mountain West Conference or the Sun Belt Conference.
In aggregate, Conference USA, the Mid-American Conference, the Mountain West Conference, the Sun Belt Conference and the Western Athletic Conference were guaranteed nine percent of the annual BCS net revenue for the 2006-2009 regular seasons. Also, if a member of one of those conferences played in one of the BCS games, the group would receive an additional nine percent.
The following changes were made in the automatic-qualification criteria, effective with the 2006 regular season:
- A conference champion from Conference USA, the Mid-American Conference, the Mountain West Conference, the Sun Belt Conference or the Western Athletic Conference would earn an automatic berth if it was (a) ranked in the top 12 of the BCS standings or (b) ranked in the top 16 of the BCS standings and its ranking was higher than that of a champion of one of the annual automatic-qualifying conferences. If more than one team achieved such a ranking, the automatic berth would go to the team with the higher ranking and the other team(s) would be eligible for at-large selection by the bowls.
- Notre Dame would earn an automatic berth if it was ranked No. 8 or higher in the BCS standings.
It was agreed that the original six conferences would receive annual automatic qualification through the 2007 regular season. Standards, based on overall conference competitiveness in the 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007 regular seasons, were created to determine which conferences should have annual automatic berths for their champions for the 2008 and 2009 regular seasons. The champions of no fewer than five and no more than seven conferences would have berths.
The commissioners made the following changes in the standings formula, effective with the 2004 regular season:
- The strength-of-schedule, team-record and quality-win components were removed, inasmuch as those elements were also reflected in the computer rankings.
- The standings formula was adjusted to include the average of the computer rankings, the AP media poll and the USA Today coaches poll, each weighted one-third.
- The New York Times computer rankings were removed, and so the standings formula would be the average of six computer rankings.
- A team's highest and lowest computer rankings would be discarded when figuring a team's computer poll average. Points would be assigned in inverse order of ranking from 1-25; the four remaining computer scores would be averaged and the total would be calculated as a percentage of 100.
- The standings formula would no longer average the weekly rank of each team in the media and coaches' polls. Instead, a team would be evaluated based on the voting points it received in each poll-a team's AP score would be its points in the poll divided by a possible 1,800 voting points (1,500 voting points in the coaches poll.)
The standings were released to all media agencies at 2 p.m. each Monday.
In November, Fox Sports was awarded the rights to the Fiesta, Orange and Sugar bowls after the 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009 seasons and the National Championship Game after the 2006, 2007 and 2008 regular seasons. ABC was awarded the rights to the National Championship Game after the 2009 regular season and to the Rose Bowl games after the 2006-2009 seasons.
In light of an announcement by the Associated Press that it would no longer permit the use of its poll as a component of the BCS standings, the Harris Interactive College Football Poll was created as a replacement, beginning with the 2005 regular season.
Army and Navy were each allocated a participation fee of $100,000 for making themselves available to participate in a BCS bowl game if selected effective for the 2006 regular season, in recognition of the investment the academies continue to make in their football programs, the programs' historical significance and the unique contribution the institutions make to higher education.
It was also agreed that Notre Dame would receive an annual fee of $1.3 million from the BCS in the years when its team does not participate in one of the games, and $4.5 million when its team does participate.
Big 12 commissioner Kevin Weiberg, Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany, University of Mississippi president Robert Khayat and three bowl representatives appeared before a subcommittee of the House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee in December.
Relative to whether it was appropriate for the group managing the BCS to set policy in areas such as NCAA action banning certain Native American mascots and uniform logos, it was the unanimous position of the Presidential Oversight Committee that the group had no such regulatory function and that the matter should be referred back to the NCAA to be handled through its bowl licensing process.
It was agreed to incorporate an NCAA public service announcement in the BCS game telecasts if possible.
The Sugar Bowl was moved to Atlanta in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
It was agreed that the BCS standings would be released on Fox's National Football League telecasts on Sunday afternoons.
The Harris poll was retained as an element of the BCS standings through the 2009 regular season.
The criteria for selection as an at-large team were revised from nine victories and a ranking in the top 12 of the final BCS standings to nine victories and a ranking in the top 14.
The conferences continued dividing the cost of the game-cancellation insurance among the conferences based upon the percentage of revenue that each conference receives from the BCS games in a particular year.
Temple University, a Division I-A independent, was awarded a $100,000 participation fee for making its team available for the BCS for the 2006 regular season.
The Tom Mickle Internship was established in the office of the bowl hosting the National Championship Game each year, in memory of the late Executive Director of Florida Citrus Sports who was instrumental in forming the BCS.
The conferences unanimously approved a contingency plan to be used in the event a conference is unable to declare its champion by selection Sunday.
A procedure was adopted to break all ties in the BCS standings.
It was agreed not to issue game credentials to scouts from professional teams; rather, the bowls will offer to sell tickets to the professional league office if requested and if tickets are available, with the understanding that the league will distribute the tickets to teams as it wishes.
The group agreed that no more than one replay of each play — to be shown at normal speed — may be shown on the large-screen video boards inside the stadiums.
To prevent underage consumption and to enhance security and the overall fan experience, the sale of alcoholic beverages by vendors in the seating areas was prohibited. Also, sales of alcoholic beverages at concession stands was precluded after the start of the third quarter.
The cost of game-cancellation insurance was added to the BCS budget.
A maximum of $2,025,000 was placed on the total payments made to Football Championship Subdivision Conferences each year, with no conference to receive more than $225,000.
Stadiums were required to provide both wireless and hard-wired Internet access in the working press boxes.
The group agreed that the "red hat" (on-field timeout coordinator) would be hired by the conferences and Notre Dame, at their expense, and should report to a representative of the group at each of the games.
It was agreed that the BCS group would host a reception for representatives of the Football Bowl Association on the Wednesday evening of the April 2008 meeting, at the BCS hotel. It was further agreed that a maximum of three representatives of each bowl would be invited.
The commissioners modified the selection procedures to address a situation where fewer than 10 teams are eligible for selection.
As a result of the agreed-upon evaluation of play in the 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007 regular seasons, five conferences (Atlantic Coast, Big 12, Big Ten, Pacific-10 and Southeastern) earned automatic qualification for the BCS games of January of 2009 and 2010. A sixth, the Big East, met the threshold for receiving a waiver, which was granted.
The commissioners reaffirmed their previous action to require "clean" quadrants of seating for participating institutions during the 2011-14 cycle, and also required that the bowls provide endzone seats at a discount for students.
After discussion of proposals from the conferences, including a presentation on a "Plus One" format, the group agreed without dissent to continue with the existing BCS format for the 2011-14 cycle.
The group unanimously agreed to use the current standards formula for the next cycle, meaning that the results of play during the regular seasons of 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011 would be evaluated to identify the conferences that will have automatic qualification after the 2012 and 2013 regular seasons.
Also, in order that the television network would be aware when it purchases the rights which conferences will have annual automatic berths, it was agreed that the cycles for evaluating conferences would coincide with the four-year television cycles in the future. Thus, if the BCS continues under the same or similar format, conferences will be evaluated on their performances during the 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013 regular seasons to determine which conferences have automatic qualification for the bowls that will conclude the 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017 regular seasons.
An "administrative philosophy" was created for the National Championship Game, outlining the specific responsibilities of the host bowl and the BCS group.
It was unanimously confirmed that, if the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the final BCS standings are from the same conference, the conference has an annual automatic berth for its champion, and neither team in the National Championship Game is the conference champion, then only in that instance would three teams from a conference automatically qualify to participate in one of the BCS games.
The Group of 12 and Presidential Oversight Committee unanimously agreed to accept in principle an offer from ESPN to televise 15 BCS games (four Fiesta, Orange and Sugar Bowls and three National Championship Games) at the conclusion of the 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013 regular seasons. A contract was subsequently signed to that effect.
Each conference's constituents reviewed a proposal for change from the Mountain West Conference, and agreed to comply with the agreements that had been negotiated with the bowls and ESPN for the 2011-14 cycle. The group agreed to consider proposals from any conference for 2015 and thereaftger.
The group unanimously approved a new policy for news conferences, stipulating that the student-athletes who accompany the offensive and defensive coordinators to the news conferences at the bowl sites must include the starting quarterback, leading tackler, all major national award winners and first-team all-Americans.
The commissioners emphasized the importance of transparency in the two human polls that are a part of the BCS standings.
1998-2000 — Roy Kramer, Southeastern Conference
April 2000-2002 — John Swofford, Atlantic Coast Conference
April 2002-2004 — Mike Tranghese, Big East Conference
April 2004-January 2006 — Kevin Weiberg, Big 12 Conference
January 2006-2008 — Mike Slive, Southeastern Conference
January 2008 — John Swofford, Atlantic Coast Conference