Gators heading to the Birmingham Bowl

Florida found out early Sunday evening that it would face East Carolina in the Birmingham Bowl on January 3 at 1 p.m.

The Gators will face the Pirates during bowl season this year, and the two teams will face off September 12 next year in Gainesville. It will be the second all-time meeting between the two programs. Florida beat East Carolina 24-17 in 1983

"We are excited to be headed to Birmingham for the Birmingham Bowl," Florida athletics director Jeremy Foley said. "Our players, coaches and staff are looking forward to traveling to the home of the conference office and representing the University of Florida."

East Carolina finished the 2014 regular season at 8-4 with wins at Virginia Tech (28-21), against North Carolina (45-24) and at USF (28-17). The four losses came at South Carolina, at Temple, at Cincinnati and against UCF.

The game does create a difficult situation for the Florida athletic program. The football game kicks off at 1 p.m., and the Gators host defending basketball national champion Connecticut at 2 p.m. on the same day.

Florida’s regular season came to an end on November 29 with a 24-19 loss at Florida State. However, the Gators won their sixth game of the season the previous week by blowing out Eastern Kentucky 52-3.

The Gators promoted defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin to the interim head coach position immediately following the regular season. After the Florida dropped an overtime game to South Carolina on November 15, coach Will Muschamp was told he would not be returning to coach the team in 2015. He stayed on to coach the Gators against Eastern Kentucky and Florida State, but Durkin took the reigns after that.

"We're very excited to be heading to the Birmingham Bowl," Durkin said. "Our guys are ready to get back on the field to begin preparation to face a very good ECU team."

Jim McElwain was named the new Florida head coach on Thursday and went through his introductory press conference on Saturday. When asked about his involvement in the bowl game, McElwain said he would let the current staff do their jobs.

“Eating popcorn,” McElwain said when asked what he’ll be doing when the Gators play in their bowl. “I’m gonna see what the normal guy does. Maybe we’ll go tailgating, can we do that (UF president) Bernie (Machen)? Can we go set up a grill?”

Florida won only four games and missed a bowl game last year, so the extra bowl practices will be important for the Gators.

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