|Preceded by||National Polls|
|Succeeded by||Bowl Alliance (1995–97)|
|Number of Coalition bowls||6–7 per season|
|Championship trophy||AFCA National Championship Trophy|
|Most Coalition bowl appearances||Florida St., Nebraska (3)|
|Most Coalition bowl wins||Florida St. (3)|
|Most Coalition bowl championships||Alabama, Florida St., Nebraska (1)|
|Conference with most appearances||ACC, Big East, Big 8, SEC, SWC (6)|
|Conference with most game wins||SEC (5)|
|Conference with most championships||ACC, Big 8, SEC (1)|
|Last championship game||1994 Orange Bowl|
|Last champion||Florida St.|
The Bowl Coalition was the initial predecessor of the Bowl Championship Series that was formed through an agreement among 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 co-national champions in both 1990 and 1991. The agreement was in place for the 1992, 1993, and 1994 seasons. It was supplanted by the Bowl Alliance.
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 the five member conferences' runners-up, 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 its second-place team was tied to the Florida Citrus Bowl) and Notre Dame. The Orange, Sugar, Cotton and Fiesta Bowls were "Tier 1 Bowls" under the Coalition agreement, and the Gator and John Hancock Sun were "Tier 2 Bowls." The Orange, Sugar and Cotton bowls retained their long-standing agreements to invite the Big 8, SEC and SWC champs, respectively. However, the SEC, Big 8 and SWC champs would be released to play in another bowl if it was necessary to force a "title game." 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 American Football Coaches Association agreed to rank the winner of the Bowl Coalition's "title game" as the top team in the final Coaches' Poll, thus guaranteeing the winner of the game at least a share of the national championship.
The formula worked perfectly in its first year. Miami, the Big East champion, was ranked first in both polls, while SEC champ Alabama was ranked second. Miami was free to choose a bowl, so it opted to play Alabama in the Sugar Bowl.
The Coalition was flawed in several respects. Most significantly, it didn't 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 was also raised that an undefeated and untied team would not get a chance to play for the national championship, since poll rankings often differ. 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, was ranked #3 in the final Coalition Poll behind #1 Nebraska and #2 Florida State. The margin between West Virginia and Florida State was large enough to drop the Mountaineers to third in the Bowl 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, as well as the other independents. 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 national championship as of the 2013 season—some college football pundits argued that the Cougars did not play a legitimate schedule and should not be recognized as the national champion. The Cougars were the closest thing at the time to a major football power playing in a mid-major conference. They won 10 straight WAC championships from 1976 to 1985, and regularly defeated foes from the Pac-10, Big Ten and SWC during this time. Despite criticism of their schedule, the Cougars were a near-unanimous pick as national champion at the end of the season. The Coalition made it impossible for this to ever happen again. However, BYU's impact in college football would again put pressure on the upper-tier bowl agreements in the 1996 season.
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.
Eventually the Bowl Coalition became 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. Coincidentally, the last year of the Bowl Coalition was the only year that its formula didn't work out at all. Penn State went 12–0 in 1994 and was a consensus runner-up in all major polls to Nebraska. However, as the Big Ten champion, it was contractually obligated to play in the Rose Bowl, where it defeated the Pac 10's Oregon. Meanwhile, Nebraska defeated Miami in the Orange Bowl and was crowned national champion by both major polls.
The Pac-10 and Big Ten conferences later joined the group in a move that still receives criticism from some fans of each conference from perceived injustices, such as Oregon's exclusion from the championship game in 2001 when it was ranked second in both polls, and USC's exclusion in 2003 despite being ranked first in both polls used.
The current BCS was extracted from the Super Alliance.
Bowl Coalition Championship games
|1992||January 1, 1993||2 Alabama (12-0)||34||1 Miami (11-0)||13||Sugar Bowl||notes|
|1993||January 1, 1994||1 Florida St. (11-1)||18||2 Nebraska (11-0)||16||Orange Bowl||notes|
|1994||January 1, 1995||1 Nebraska (12-0)||24||3 Miami (10-1)||17||Orange Bowl||notes|
Bowl Coalition games
|Hancock||December 31, 1992||Baylor (7-5)||SWC #2||20||22 Arizona(6-5-1)||At-large||15|
|Gator||December 31, 1992||14 Florida (9-4)||SEC #3||27||12 N.C. State (9-3-1)||ACC #2||10|
|Blockbuster||January 1, 1993||13 Stanford (9-3)||Pac-10 #2||24||21 Penn State (7-5)||Independent||3|
|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 Eight #2||22|
|Orange||January 1, 1993||3 Florida State (11-1)||ACC||27||11 Nebraska (9-3)||Big Eight||14|
|Sugar||January 1, 1993||2 Alabama (12-0)||SEC||34||1 Miami (11-0)||Big East||13|
|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|
|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|
|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|
|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 (9-1)||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|
- Rankings are from the Associated Press (Writers Poll). Records and Rankings are prior to bowl games.
- 1994 Season: No. 2 Penn State (11-0) played in and won the Rose Bowl on January 2, thus No. 3 Miami was still in the running to win the National Championship when it played on January 1.
- After the 1993 game, the John Hancock Bowl reverted to its original name of the Sun Bowl.
- The Blockbuster Bowl was a coalition bowl in 1992, but not in 1993 or 1994. The John Hancock Bowl, with had previously pitted the final Coalition team against an at-large opponent, inherited the Blockbuster's coalition pick, and pitted the final two Coalition teams against each other in 1993 and 1994
- "College Bowl Games". HickokSports.com. Retrieved September 20, 2005.