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UCF vs. Houston Is the Most-Watched Non-NCAA Tournament Game in Program History

Big TV ratings for UCF thanks to ABC time slot

NCAA Basketball: Houston at Central Florida
Isaiah Adams (3) shoots the ball against Houston Cougars guard Justin Gorham (4) during the first half at Addition Financial Arena. 
Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports

In the first-ever American Athletic Conference basketball game televised on ABC, the UCF Knights’ 63-54 loss to No.6 Houston on Saturday was watched by 710,000 viewers on ABC, according to ShowBuzzDaily, making it the most-watched regular season UCF basketball game of all-time.

The game marked the first-ever appearance for both UCF and Houston on ABC, and is the fourth-ever American Athletic Conference game to air on the broadcast network. The American Semi-finals and Championship game in 2018 aired on CBS.

The game was also the sixth most-watched UCF sporting event of 2020, as it drew more viewers than half of UCF’s football games in 2020, including Tulsa (435,000), Tulane (296,000), and South Florida (529,000). The game nearly doubled the audience of Orlando City’s MLS playoff game against New England on November 29th (421,000 viewers) that aired on ABC.

UCF Basketball’s most-watched regular season game prior to Saturday coincidentally was also against Houston back on March 2, 2019, when the game drew 581,000 viewers on ESPN. That game tipped off at 4 p.m. and was ESPN’s showcase game that Saturday as ESPN College Gameday was in Houston for that game.

The most-watched UCF Basketball game of all-time was the 2019 NCAA Tournament second round game against No.1 Duke which drew 12.8 million viewers. The Knights’ first-ever NCAA Tournament win against VCU in the 1st round of 2019 NCAA Tournament drew 3.55 million viewers.

Keep in mind that when UCF made the NCAA Tournament in previous years (‘94, ‘96, ‘04, ‘05) the games were part of regional coverage, so there is no official record for how many people watched those games, as they were split up throughout the country, unlike now where you can get each game viewership numbers.

The UCF-UConn NCAA Tournament game on March 19, 2005, for an example, was part of CBS’ window of games that averaged a 4.2 national TV rating and around 7 million viewers. The CBS block that included the opening round matchup between UCF-Pittsburgh game aired that on March 19, 2004, averaged a 5.7 rating with 8.8 million viewers, according to TVTango.com.

Below are the most watched UCF Basketball games that were not NCAA Tournament games:

Most-Watched Non-NCAA Tournament UCF Basketball Games

Opponent H/A Date Network Viewers Note
Opponent H/A Date Network Viewers Note
#6 Houston H December 26, 2020 ABC 710,000 -
TCU H March 28, 2017 ESPN 678,000 NIT Semifinal
Illinois State A March 20, 2017 ESPN 597,000 NIT Second Round
#8 Houston A March 2, 2019 ESPN 581,000 -
Illinois H March 22, 2017 ESPN 573,000 NIT Quarterfinal
#11 Wichita State H March 1, 2018 ESPN 535,000 -