For the first 100 years of college football, there was no overtime. If a game were tied at the end of regulation, it would end as a tie. As such, ties fill the annals of college football. In some cases, ties even played a major role in determining the national champion. Notably, a 1966 game between #1 Notre Dame and #2 Michigan State ended in a 10-10 tie; Notre Dame chose to run out the clock on their final drive rather than try for the win.
Similarly, the 1988 Sugar Bowl between Syracuse and Auburn was the most recent major bowl game to tie. With four seconds left in the game, Auburn coach Pat Dye opted to kick a 30-yard field goal to knot the score at 16 and cost Syracuse an outside chance at winning a national championship in the process. The most famous tie in college football history, though, belongs to the 1968 Harvard-Yale matchup. The famous Harvard Crimson headline “Harvard Beats Yale 29-29” immortalized the game.
In 1992, the SEC became the first FBS Division 1 conference to implement overtime rules. With Dr. Pepper sponsoring the conference title game and ABC airing it, the SEC stayed in its corporate partners’ good graces by ensuring that the SEC championship game would crown the champion of the SEC.
By 1995, the rest of the NCAA would follow suit, thanks to the creation of the Bowl Alliance. This agreement sought to guarantee that the top two teams would square off in the national title game. In order to determine the winner of the national championship, you need to be able to determine the winner of an individual game. This change took ties out of the equation.
However, lower levels of college football introduced overtime as early as the 1970s. Since FCS, Division 2, and Division 3 all determine their national champion with a tournament-style playoff, overtime was necessary because playoff games can’t end in a tie.