The Conference USA Football Championship Game is an annual postseason college football game played to determine the champion of Conference USA (C-USA). From 1996–2004, the champion of Conference USA was determined by regular season record. In 2005, following the division of the conference into East and West Divisions and an expansion to twelve members, the conference began holding a championship game between the two division winners. The team with the better regular season record serves as the host team. From 2005 through 2010, C-USA was the only FBS conference not to have its championship game at a neutral site. After the Pac-12expanded to 12 teams in 2011, it began holding its championship game at the home of the team with the best record. The Mountain West Conference, which will have 12 football members starting in 2013, plans to hold its championship game at the home field of the division champion with the higher BCS ranking.
The first C-USA Championship Game was played on December 3, 2005 between Tulsa and UCF, with Tulsa winning 44–27. It was held at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, which was then UCF's home field.
Each year, the game has been televised live on ESPN College Football. In the 2006 season, the game was moved from Saturday afternoon to Friday night. In 2011 the game was on ABC.
The winner of the C-USA Championship customarily receives a berth to play in the Liberty Bowl. However, the Liberty Bowl is not contractually obligated to choose the game's winner. If the C-USA champion finishes ranked in the top 12 of the BCS or in the top 16 and ahead of the champion of one of the AQ conferences, it could receive an at-large bid to a BCS bowl. The loser of the C-USA championship game receives a bid in one of C-USA's six other bowl berths. Historically the C-USA runner up played in the GoDaddy.com Bowl against a team from the MAC, but C-USA's ties with that bowl ended in 2009.
2005: The game was advertised as Conference USA Championship Presented by Xbox 360. Following the victory, Tulsa received 3 votes in the AP Poll, but did not reach the top 25. Following a victory in the Liberty Bowl, Tulsa received 34 votes in the AP Poll, but still did not reach the top 25, ranking 27th overall.
2006: *The game was advertised as Conference USA Championship Presented by Aéropostale. Following the victory, Houston received 21 votes in the AP Poll, but did not reach the top 25, ranking 29th. Houston did not receive any votes in the final poll.
2007: The game was advertised as the Bright House Networks Conference USA Championship. UCF's Kevin Smith rushed for 284 yards, bringing his season total to 2,448, which stands as the second-most single season rushing yards in NCAA history. Following the victory, UCF received 35 votes in the AP Poll, but did not reach the top 25, ranking 27th.
Through 2008, no team entered or left the game ranked in any major poll.
2008: The game was the first game in which one of the contenders was ranked in the top 25 when #18 Houston played East Carolina on December 5, 2009. East Carolina also had received 3 votes in the AP Poll. East Carolina won the competition and was the first to have won two championship games in the conference and was also the first to win two consecutive championship games in the conference.
2010: The game was advertised as the Conference USA Championship presented by HotelPlanner.com. Going into the game, UCF was ranked 25th in the USA Today Coaches' Poll. UCF received 12 votes in the AP Poll, ranking 31st, 74 votes in the Harris Poll, ranking 27th, and two votes in the Legends Poll, ranking 31st. SMU had no votes in any poll entering the title game. Following the victory, UCF received 143 votes in the USA Today Coaches' Poll, ranking 24th, 63 votes in the AP Poll, ranking 26th, and finished the season ranked 25th in the final 2010 BCS Standings. UCF became the first team to finish the season nationally ranked following the championship game. UCF also became the first C-USA team to finish the season ranked in the final BCS Standings after playing in the conference title game.
2011: The game was the first to feature both teams ranked entering the contest. It was televised for the first time on ABC rather than ESPN2. Houston was 12-0 entering the game, and with a win, would have likely qualified for BCS bowl berth. However, Southern Miss convincingly defeated the Cougars, securing a slot in the Hawaii Bowl (after a minor controversy regarding the C-USA berth in the Liberty Bowl). Houston wound up in the TicketCity Bowl.
2012: The game featured Tulsa and UCF meeting in the game for the third time in eight years, the most of any FBS conference championship game during that time span. It was also a rematch of a regular season meeting two weeks prior. It was both Tulsa's fourth and UCF's fourth appearance in the game, tied for the conference record. In addition, it marked UCF's final appearance as part of C-USA, as they will depart for the American Athletic Conference in 2013. Entering the game, both teams were unranked in the major polls; however, UCF had received five votes in the USA Today Coaches' Poll.