The trophy consists of a Waterford Crystal football affixed to an ebony base, and carries a value of over $30,000. The winning school retains permanent possession of the trophy, as a new one is awarded every year. The football portion of the trophy weighs approximately 8 pounds and together with the stand, it weighs about 45 pounds (20 kg) and stands 34 inches tall. It is handmade by master craftspeople at Waterford Crystal and reportedly takes nearly three months to complete.
The trophy has undergone several sponsorship changes over the years. It was sponsored by the Gerrits Foundation during the initial 1986 and 1987 seasons. Pepsi came aboard as a co-sponsor in 1988 and 1989. McDonald's was the sole sponsor from 1990 until 1992. Sears became the trophy's sponsor in 1993 and remained so until 2001. Circuit City assumed sponsorship duties for the 2002 season. ADT Security Services was the title sponsor from 2003 to 2005.
Its current name is actually "The American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) National Championship Trophy (or The Coaches' Trophy)"; it was given this permanent name by the association in 2006.
In 2009, the AFCA allowed universities to buy unofficial crystal football replicas for any year the school finished #1 in the Coaches' Poll prior to the creation of the trophy in 1986. Through the 1973 season, the final Coaches' Poll was released in early December, after the regular season, but before the bowl games. Beginning with the 1974 season, the Coaches' Poll would conduct its final poll after the bowl games.