Courtesy AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic

Although the end of an era can sometimes be sad, it can also be exciting because it means something better is on the way. That’s the case with the AT&T COTTON BOWL CLASSIC, which has matched members of the Southeastern and Big 12 conferences since 1999. This season, the game, which is played at the Dallas Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, will take place on Jan. 3, 2014, and will match up a top team from each conference. Next season, however, it will feature the two best teams in the country as it plays host to the first championship game of college football’s new playoff system.

But that’s next year. This year, the Cotton Bowl will end an era on a distinct high note. “The Big 12 and SEC have combined to win the last eight national championships,” says Rick Baker, Cotton Bowl president and CEO. “We certainly have benefited from the strength of both conferences for nearly two decades. Last year, I would argue we had one of the best postseason matchups in the country with Texas A&M and Oklahoma. This year, the Big 12 is wide open, and the SEC is loaded at the top. Based on preseason projections and the fact that our game sold out in record time, we expect another tremendous matchup.”

The first Cotton Bowl game took place in 1937, and for 73 years it was played at its namesake stadium on the grounds of Fair Park in Dallas before moving to Arlington. The four games played at the new stadium generated four of the five largest crowds in the Cotton Bowl’s history. The 2013 game, which pitted No. 9 Texas A&M and Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel against No. 11 Oklahoma, was played in front of 87,025 fans.

Baker says the Cotton Bowl committee is excited about hosting the first championship game of the College Football Playoff next year, “but there’s no doubt that the Big 12 and the SEC has been a recipe for success.”