The Southeastern Conference made a bold, forward thinking and, at the time, very controversial decision in 1991 to add a league championship game, the first such contest in major college football.
The Big 12 followed suit in 1996, when the newly minted conference became the second to stage a championship game.
But while more and more conferences eventually jumped on board with the cash generating, nationally televised title games, only one league regressed.
The Big 12 got out of the conference championship game business in 2011, when its membership dropped to 10 and the league began playing a round-robin schedule.
The Pac-12 and Big Ten Conferences added title games in 2011, leaving the Big 12 and Big East (now known as the American Athletic Conference) as the only two BCS automatic qualifier leagues without them.
The clashes all trace back to the SEC's first one in 1992, when coaches widely bemoaned it as nothing more than a money grab and an unnecessary hindrance to the league's national championship hopes every year.
“I'm not saying an SEC team will never win another national championship,” Alabama coach Gene Stallings said at the time. “I'm just saying it's not going to happen very often.”
Stallings very quickly proved himself wrong. After his Crimson Tide squad won the inaugural SEC title game in 1992, it beat Miami in the Sugar Bowl to claim a national championship.
In 10 of the 21 seasons since the SEC began crowning its football champion in the East vs. West title game, a school from the league has become national champion.
“I was in the camp that I didn't think it was a good idea,” former Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer remembered in a recent telephone interview with The Oklahoman. “I thought we were gonna beat each other up and knock each other out of the national championship picture.
“As it turns out, that hasn't been the case. It has more likely propelled us more times than it hurt us.”
Fulmer experienced the downside of conference-title games in 2001, though, when LSU upset his No. 2-ranked Volunteers and knocked them out of the national championship game.
The same day, No. 3 Texas lost the Big 12 title game to Colorado.
Those two conference championship upsets oddly elevated Nebraska, which hadn't even won the Big 12 North Division, into the national-title game.
Two years later, Kansas State routed unbeaten, No. 1 Oklahoma in the 2003 Big 12 title game, but the loss ultimately meant nothing to the Sooners, who still received a spot in the national championship.
Despite those few anomalies, though, a conference-title game — or the lack of one — has likely contributed at least twice to the SEC's incredible streak of national titles.
The week after No. 1 Ohio State beat No. 2 Michigan in late November 2006, the rivals remained atop the BCS standings, creating the strong possibility of a national title game rematch.
But after Florida beat No. 9 Arkansas in the SEC title game, the Gators leapfrogged the idle Wolverines in the BCS standings, and then slaughtered Ohio State 41-14 to win the first of the SEC's now seven straight national championships.
In 2011, the Big 12's first season in its 10-team, round-robin format, league champion and 11-1 Oklahoma State was excluded from the national title game, which instead featured an LSU vs. Alabama rematch.
The Crimson Tide had lost at home to LSU during the regular season and didn't play in the SEC title game, but was still ranked just above the Cowboys in the final BCS standings.
Might a conference championship game victory have elevated OSU over Alabama? We'll never know.
After only two seasons without a title game, Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby was already discussing its possible resurrection earlier this year.
Bowlsby said in January that the conference might petition for the right to play a title game despite NCAA rules requiring a league to have 12 teams to stage one.
A renewed Big 12 Championship Game might become even more important when the College Football Playoff replaces the BCS after this season.
The four-team field will be chosen by a human selection committee, which will surely factor strength of schedule into its decision.
Regardless, the SEC Championship Game continues to thrive entering its 22nd season of existence.
“(Former SEC Commissioner Roy) Kramer knew what he was doing,” said CBS college football analyst Tim Brando. “He was way ahead of the curve. It not only bolstered and enhanced the SEC, but also, the conference championship game in Atlanta became the destination.
“Every team in the SEC, their coaches and players all dream of going to Atlanta the first Saturday in December. The Big 12 never created the same sort of vibe about having a conference championship game that the SEC did.”