Florida football: Gators, UCF will play for first time since 2006 in Gasparilla Bowl

Zach Abolverdi
Gator Sports

Florida accepted Sunday an invitation to play UCF in the Gasparilla Bowl at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa on Dec. 23 at 7 p.m. on ESPN.

The Gators (6-6, 2-6 SEC) and interim coach Greg Knox became bowl eligible with a 24-21 win over Florida State in the regular season finale, while the Knights finished 8-4 in coach Gus Malzahn’s first year. 

“Coach Knox will continue as the interim coach for the bowl game," UF athletic director Scott Stricklin said. "Coach (Billy) Napier’s going to take some time to put his staff together. He’ll be focused on recruiting and kind of observing. We’re fortunate that Coach Knox will continue to lead us into the bowl game.”

This will be the third meeting between UF and Central Florida. The Gators won the previous two games in 2006 (42-0) and 1999 (58-27), both in Gainesville. 

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Florida Interim coach Greg Knox and the Gators prepare to enter Steve Spurrier-Florida Field against Florida State Seminoles on Nov. 27.

The schools agreed in July on a deal that will have the programs play three times over the next several years, including two games in Gainesville and one game in Orlando.

The matchups are set for Oct. 5, 2024, Sept. 14, 2030, and Sept. 3, 2033, with the 2024 and 2033 games at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

The Gators played at Raymond James Stadium in the 42-20 win over USF on Sept.11. UF is 3-0 vs. state teams this season.

“That will be our fourth in-state team to play this year," Stricklin said. "We’ve had success with the other three. Bowl games are supposed to be a lot of fun. This one’s going to be special, getting us and UCF together. I know the Gators down in Tampa and throughout central Florida will be real excited to see that game.”

The 2020 Gasparilla Bowl was supposed to feature South Carolina against UAB. South Carolina was forced to withdraw from the game due to issues with COVID-19. That forced the bowl game to be canceled.

Florida is making its 47th all-time bowl appearance, entering the matchup with an all-time record of 24-22. The Gators won three-straight bowl games from 2016-19 prior to dropping last year's Cotton Bowl showdown against Oklahoma. From 2018-20, Florida played in three-consecutive New Year's Six bowls.

Gasparilla Bowl

Who: Florida (6-6) vs. UCF (8-4)

When: 7 p.m. Dec. 23

Where: Raymond James Stadium, Tampa


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