The Cotton Bowl Classic is a college football bowl game that pits the second-choice team of the Big 12 against the third- or fourth-choice team of the SEC. The game was played annually since 1937 at its namesake stadium in Dallas, Texas. The bowl traditionally hosted the champion of the Southwest Conference prior to its merger into the Big 12. Their opponents varied, but were often second- or third-place teams in Southeastern Conference or major independents.
Under its current position, after the BCS National Championship Game and BCS bowl participants are selected, the Cotton Bowl Classic has the first selection of Big 12 bowl-eligible teams and has the second selection (after the Capital One Bowl) of SEC bowl-eligible teams (its position is along with the Outback Bowl, but due to geographical considerations the Cotton Bowl has first choice from the SEC's Western Division while the Outback Bowl chooses from the SEC's Eastern Division).
On February 27, 2007, it was announced that the game would move to Cowboys Stadium in nearby Arlington beginning on January 1, 2010. With that announcement, Cotton Bowl Classic officials also began a campaign to become part of the Bowl Championship Series when the current contract featuring the Rose, Sugar, Fiesta, and Orange bowls expired in 2010. Plans to join the BCS were scrapped, however, shortly after ESPN acquired the rights to the series.
Since 1996, the game has been sponsored by Southwestern Bell Corporation; however, it went through several name changes, first in 2000 when the firm adopted a standardized "SBC" branding reflecting its name it adopted in 1995, SBC Communications, and since 2006, after their acquisition of AT&T Corporation, and its subsequent name change to AT&T Inc., as the AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic. From 1989 until 1995, the game was sponsored by Mobil Oil and known as the Mobil Cotton Bowl Classic.
The Cotton Bowl is one of only six sites under consideration for the national title game on Jan. 12, 2015 that will crown the champion of the Football Bowl Subdivision's first playoff.