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UCF’s Gasparilla Bowl Win Was the Least-Watched UCF Bowl Game on ESPN

Time slot, lackluster opponent takes its toll on UCF’s TV audience

Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl - Central Florida v Marshall
TAMPA, FLORIDA - DECEMBER 23: Head coach Josh Heupel of the UCF Knights gets interviewed after defeating the Marshall Thundering Herd 48-25 at the Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl at Raymond James Stadium on December 23, 2019 in Tampa, Florida.
Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

The UCF Knights’ 48-25 win over the Marshall Thundering Herd on Monday was watched by 1.154 million viewers, according to SportsMediaWatch.com, which makes it the least-watched UCF bowl game that has aired on ESPN’s networks. It was only UCF’s 4th-most watched game of the 2019 season behind the Pitt (2.55 mill on ABC/ESPN2), USF (1.7 million), and Cincinnati (1.44 million) games.

Only UCF’s loss to Arkansas State in the 2016 Cure Bowl (which aired on CBS Sports Network, which does not post numbers publically and is not Nielsen-registered) likely had fewer viewers. It has much fewer TV homes than ESPN, ESPN2 or even ESPNU.

Here is UCF’s bowl game TV viewer history:

UCF Bowl Game TV Viewership History

Year Bowl Opponent Date Network Viewers (millions)
Year Bowl Opponent Date Network Viewers (millions)
2014 Fiesta Baylor 1/1 ESPN 11.3
2019 Fiesta LSU 1/1 ESPN 8.471
2018 Peach Auburn 1/1 ESPN 8.377
2010 Liberty Georgia 12/31 ESPN 4.7
2007 Liberty Mississippi St. 12/31 ESPN 3.9
2014 St. Petersburg NC State 12/26 ESPN 3.27
2009 St. Petersburg Rutgers 12/19 ESPN 2.4
2005 Hawai'i Nevada 12/24 ESPN 2.1
2012 Beef 'O' Brady's Ball St. 12/21 ESPN 1.9
2019 Gasparilla Marshall 12/23 ESPN 1.154
Data: SportsMediaWatch.com Note: Only games on Nielsen-rated networks provide viewership data.

The early Monday kick-off did not help the TV numbers, as it was the first time the bowl game was played in afternoon since 2016, when the game was played on Monday, December 26th at 11 a.m. The last time the bowl game was played before Christmas in the afternoon was the 2013 edition between Ohio and East Carolina, which started at 2 p.m. and got 1.27 million viewers. The Knights jumping out to the big lead also did not help with casual viewers either as it was 34% down from last year’s Gasparilla Bowl between Marshall and South Florida, which aired in primetime.

St. Pete/Beef ‘O’ Brady’s/Gasparilla Bowl TV Viewership History

Year Date Time Slot (ET) Result Viewers (M)
Year Date Time Slot (ET) Result Viewers (M)
2019 Monday, December 23 2:30 p.m. UCF 48, Marshall 25 1.154
2018 Thursday, December 20 8 p.m. Marshall 38, USF 20 1.75
2017 Thursday, December 21 8 p.m. Temple 28, FIU 3 1.597
2016 Monday, December 26 11 a.m. Mississipi St. 17, Miami (OH) 16 2.045
2015 Saturday, December 26 11 a.m. Marshall 16, UConn 10 2.4
2014 Friday, December 26 8 p.m. NC State 34, UCF 27 3.27
2013 Monday, December 23 2 p.m. ECU 37, Ohio 20 1.27
2012 Friday, December 21 8 p.m. UCF 38, Ball St. 17 1.9
2011 Tuesday, December 20 8 p.m. Marshall 20, FIU 10 2.1
2010 Tuesday, December 21 8 p.m. Louisville 31, Southern Miss 28 2.9
2009 Saturday, December 19 8 p.m. Rutgers 45, UCF 24 2.4
2008 Saturday, December 20 4:30 p.m. USF 41, Memphis 14 1.7
Data: SportsMediaWatch.com UCF games in bold

The game was moved to ESPN2 at 6:04 pm as ESPN went to their NFL pregame show, NFL Countdown, which got 1.7 million viewers as a lead-up to the Green Bay Packers-Minnesota Vikings game, which was #1 on the night with 13.5 million viewers.

The Gasparilla Bowl is not the only bowl game with low TV viewership this season, as seven of eight bowl games on Nielsen-rated networks have declined from last year, according to Sports Media Watch, with six of those seven hitting historic lows.

So this is not a UCF issue, as fewer people are interested in bowl games in general, at least at the start of the bowl season.