ECU-Coastal delivers biggest Birmingham Bowl audience in five years

Heading into college football weekend and the start of New Year’s Six Bowl games, Tuesday’s Birmingham Bowl game between Coastal Carolina and Eastern Carolina in prime time delivered the one of the best college football playoff TV ratings yet.

ECU’s 53-29 win over Coastal Carolina was the highest-rated of four bowl games on Tuesday, according to, attracting 2.62 million viewers. It topped the late night game between Oklahoma State and Wisconsin in the Catcus Bowl (2.56 million), and was well ahead of the First Responder Bowl between Memphis and Utah State (2.20 million) and the Camellia Bowl between Georgia Southern and Buffalo (1.55 million).

The 2.62 million people who tuned in to the Birmingham Bowl represented the biggest audience for the game in five years. Granted, a prime-time slot at 6:50 p.m. ET helped boost the numbers, but the performance was still strong on Tuesday, December 27, just two days after Christmas. ECU-Coastal outperformed Houston-Auburn last year by 14%, as well as Cincinnati-Boston College in January 2020 and Wake Forest-Memphis in 2018. USF and Texas Tech, who met on Saturday, December 23, 2017 , was the last game to surpass ECU-Coastal among the Birmingham Bowls.

East Carolina has now appeared in two of the most-watched Birmingham Bowls in gaming history. Florida and East Carolina, who met on January 3, 2015, drew 4.5 million viewers this Saturday after -midday. It still holds the record for the most-watched Birmingham Bowl game of all time. The game dates back to 2006, when ECU entered the inaugural contest against South Florida at Legion Field.

ECU’s game against Coastal Carolina topped a pair of Wednesday bowl games also on ESPN: Texas Tech-Ole Miss (2.6 million) and Duke-UCF (2.16 million).

East Carolina’s bowl viewership was higher than that of the three AAC teams leaving for the Big XII (Cincinnati, UCF and Houston).

The Birmingham Bowl match marked the first-ever meeting between Eastern Carolina and Coastal Carolina. The Pirates trailed 14-10 midway through the second quarter before scoring 35 of the game’s next 42 points. The Pirates led 24-14 at halftime and finally 45-21 at the start of the fourth quarter. Fifth-year senior quarterback Holton Ahlers threw for 300 yards and scored six total touchdowns to set a Birmingham Bowl record. He was named MVP for the bowl game.

The Pirates finished the year 8-5 on aggregate under the fourth-year head coach mike houston and recorded their first bowl win since 2013. They also won eight games for the first time since the 2014 campaign.

“What a great night for Pirate Nation,” Houston said after the game. “So excited for our players. Excited for our fans. Excited for our institution. That’s been the goal since we got here, to bring ECU back to victory and be back in the fight for the bowl, and winning bowl matches again. Tonight is a very significant achievement for a lot of people. I couldn’t be more proud of this whole senior class.

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