HUNTINGTON – There will be plenty of familiarity for the Marshall football team’s 2019 bowl matchup.
Marshall will play a team with which it has bowl game history at a destination that it has traveled to often as a member of Conference USA.
On Sunday afternoon, it was announced that Marshall will take on UCF in the Gasparilla Bowl, which takes place at 2:30 p.m. on Dec. 23 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida.
“I’m pleased with that. It’s great,” Marshall athletic director Mike Hamrick said. “It’s a chance to go to Florida and play a top-notch opponent from the American Athletic Conference in UCF. We recruit there and have a lot of players from Florida and a lot of alumni from Florida, as well.”
It will be the second-straight year that Marshall (8-4) will play in the game, which is played at the home venue of the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Hamrick said the return invite to the bowl game speaks volumes of what the bowl representatives think of the Herd program and fan base.
“When the people from the Gasparilla Bowl called and invited us, first of all, they were well-aware of our bowl records under coach Holliday,” Hamrick said. “They realized that Marshall has an excellent brand. Our presence of Herd fans in Florida and how our fans travel all factored in.”
Last season, the Herd went to Tampa and earned a 38-20 win over South Florida, who plays its home games in Raymond James Stadium.
This year’s matchup involves another team from the state of Florida – this one, a team that Marshall has plenty of experience against.
UCF was a rival of the Herd for several years. The two teams battled as members of the Mid-American Conference’s East Division from 2002-04, then made the transition to Conference USA’s East Division together in 2005.
The Knights were part of a massive overhaul of college football in 2013, joining the American Athletic Conference where they have since seen success as one of the Group of Five’s top programs.
In the last six seasons, UCF has played in three major bowls: the Fiesta Bowl twice (2013, 2018) and the Peach Bowl (2017).
“Central Florida is an excellent program,” Hamrick said. “Their opponent the last two years have been Auburn and LSU. It gives us a great matchup that our fans will enjoy.”
Hamrick added that all the variables for the game worked in the Herd’s favor for the program and its fans, also.
“It’s a really good time of the year to have a bowl,” Hamrick said. “It’s the only game on that day and it’s nationally-televised on ESPN. That’s great exposure for our program. We can get two good weeks of practice in and go play, and then everybody can be home for Christmas.”
It is the fourth time that Marshall has played in the Tampa/St. Petersburg-based bowl game. The Herd is currently 3-0 in its trips to the contest.
In 2010, Marshall defeated Florida International, 20-10, in the Beef O’Brady Bowl at Tropicana Field – the same venue that the Herd defeated Connecticut, 16-10, in 2015.