East Carolina is bound for Birmingham, Ala. The Pirates announced Sunday that they accepted an invitation to the Birmingham Bowl, where they will face the Florida Gators at 1 p.m. on Jan. 3.
The bowl appearance will be the Pirates’ eighth during the past nine years and fourth under fifth-year coach Ruffin McNeill.
“We are looking forward to the challenge of playing Florida, a program rich in tradition out of a conference which has our highest respect,” McNeill said in a news release. “We are excited to have another opportunity to accomplish something special for this senior class, especially against a team the caliber of the Gators.”
ECU (8-4) was ranked as high as No. 18 in The Associated Press poll and had hopes of playing in a top-tier bowl, but those dreams got derailed by back-to-back losses to Temple and Cincinnati.
The Gators went 6-5 and recently fired coach Will Muschamp. Former Colorado State coach Jim McElwain will guide Florida in the matchup.
The bowl appearance will be the 20th for East Carolina, which owns a 9-10 record.
The schools, which are scheduled to play at Florida next season, have played once before, with the Gators winning 24-17.
Last season, the Pirates broke a four-game bowl losing streak by topping Ohio University 37-20 in the Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl. Previous to that, ECU’s last bowl victory came in 2007, when it beat then-No. 24 Boise State 41-38 in the Hawaii Bowl.