College Football Conference Championships

Written by Andrew Linn on November 27, 2022

It was thirty years ago that conference championship games debuted in college football’s Division I FBS (then known as Division I-A) with the Southeastern Conference Championship Game, in which unbeaten Alabama (winner of the SEC West Division) defeated Florida (winner of the East Division) 28-21.

Previously the first Saturday in December consisted (for the most part) of just the Army-Navy game and (from 1977-1993) the Coca-Cola Classic in Tokyo, Japan. But with the expansion of the Southeastern Conference, that would change.

In 1996, the Big Twelve Conference Championship Game debuted (in which Texas defeated Nebraska 37-27), as did the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) Championship Game, with BYU defeating Wyoming 28-25. The following year, the Mid-American Conference (MAC) Championship Game debuted, during which Marshall defeated Toledo 34-14. When several WAC schools left to form the Mountain West Conference in 1999, the WAC Championship Game was discontinued.

In the following years, other games would be played on the first Saturday in December (later referred to as Championship Saturday). Some games were scheduled from the start, while other games that were postponed due to natural disasters, the 9/11 terrorist attacks, etc. were rescheduled for that day.

In 2005, the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) Championship Game debuted, with Florida State defeating Virginia Tech 27-22. It also saw the debut of the Conference USA Championship Game, in which Tulsa defeated Central Florida 44- 27.

2011 saw the debut of the Big Ten Conference Championship Game, in which Wisconsin defeated Michigan State 42-39. That same year also saw the debut of the Pac-12 Championship Game, with Oregon defeating UCLA 49-31.

In later years, other conference championship games debuted, consisting of the American Athletic Conference Championship Game, the Mountain West Conference Championship Game, and the Sun Belt Conference Championship Game.

In the past, the NCAA mandated that each conference have twelve or more schools in order to have a championship, resulting in the Big Twelve Conference scrapping its Championship Game after the 2010 College Football Season. But the NCAA later dropped that requirement, which led to the revival of the Big Twelve Conference Championship Game (in which the top two schools would compete in the title game). A similar situation occurred with the Sun Belt Conference, as would be the case with the American Athletic Conference, Conference USA, and
Pac-12 Conference (the latter three choosing to do away with their respective divisions).

As a result of the increasing number of games on Championship Saturday, the Army-Navy game was pushed back to the following Saturday, beginning with the 2009 season, so it would be the final game of the regular season.

So enjoy watching these conference championship games, as well as the Army-Navy game.

Andrew Linn
Andrew Linn is a member of the Owensboro Tea Party and a former Field Representative for the Media Research Center. An ex-Democrat, he became a Republican one week after the 2008 Presidential Election. He has an M.A. in history from the University of Louisville, where he became a member of the Phi Alpha Theta historical honors society. He has also contributed to examiner.com and Right Impulse Media.