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Bowl Alliance

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.


  • Background 1
  • Demise 2
  • History and schedule 3
    • 1995–96 season 3.1
    • 1996–97 season 3.2
    • 1997–98 season 3.3
  • Appearances by team 4
  • References 5


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 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. Both polls retained their autonomy as to who they could name national champion. The coaches poll would get locked into the BCS system starting with the 1998 while the AP poll always retained their 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. In 1997, No. 1 Michigan as Big Ten Champion was locked into playing No. 8 Washington State in the Rose Bowl. Arizona State lost to Ohio State in the 1997 Rose Bowl, ending the possibility for a split national championship for that season. However for the 1997 season a split national championship became reality as Michigan would win the 1998 Rose Bowl and being the top-ranked team in both the Associated Press and Coaches' polls entering bowl season would retain their No. 1 ranking in the AP Poll.

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 beginning with the 1998 college football season to form the Bowl Championship Series.


Because the Bowl Alliance failed to include the Pac-10, Big Ten (and the Rose Bowl), and 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 beating Kansas State to finish the season 14–1. The Bowl Coalition was also at risk of anti-trust because of the monopoly on the bowls. 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


Appearances by team

Appearances School W L Pct Games
3 Nebraska 3 0 1.000 Won 1996 Fiesta Bowl+
Won 1996 Orange Bowl (December)
Won 1998 Orange Bowl+
3 Florida State 2 1 .667 Won 1996 Orange Bowl (January)
Lost 1997 Sugar Bowl+
Won 1998 Sugar Bowl
2 Virginia Tech 1 1 .500 Won 1995 Sugar Bowl (December)
Lost 1996 Orange Bowl (December)
2 Florida 1 1 .500 Lost 1996 Fiesta Bowl+
Won 1997 Sugar Bowl+
2 Texas 0 2 .000 Lost 1995 Sugar Bowl (December)
Lost 1997 Fiesta Bowl (January)
1 Kansas State 1 0 1.000 Won 1997 Fiesta Bowl (December)
1 Penn State 1 0 1.000 Won 1997 Fiesta Bowl (January)
1 Ohio State 0 1 .000 Lost 1998 Sugar Bowl
1 Tennessee 0 1 .000 Lost 1998 Orange Bowl+
1 Syracuse 0 1 .000 Lost 1997 Fiesta Bowl (December)
1 Notre Dame 0 1 .000 Lost 1996 Orange Bowl (January)

+ Denotes Bowl Alliance National Championship Game


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