GREENVILLE, N.C. – East Carolina University will represent the American Athletic Conference in the 2022 TicketSmarter Birmingham Bowl league officials announced Sunday afternoon.

(ECU Sports Information graphic)

The Pirates (7-5), who are bowl eligible for the second consecutive year under head coach Mike Houston, will play the Coastal Carolina University (9-3) from the Sun Belt Conference on Tuesday, December 27 at Protective Stadium.

Kickoff is set for 6:45 p.m. ET and will be televised on ESPN.

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“We are honored to accept an invitation to the Birmingham Bowl and play in the postseason for the second consecutive year under head coach Mike Houston,” East Carolina Director of Athletics Jon Gilbert said. “I am excited for our student-athletes, coaches and staff to represent East Carolina University, our community and all of eastern North Carolina.

“In conjunction with Mark Meadows and the Birmingham Bowl, I know our young men will have a first-class bowl experience. We have a dedicated group including a special group of seniors that have worked to rebuild our football program. We are looking forward to Pirate Nation joining us in Birmingham.” 

For the first time since the 2013-14 campaigns, the Pirates enjoyed consecutive winning seasons posting identical 7-5 marks. East Carolina features a high-powered offense led by quarterback Holton Ahlers, who has passed for a career-best 3,408 yards and 23 touchdowns, while first-team All-AAC running back Keaton Mitchell has rushed for personal-best 1,325 yards and scored 13 touchdowns. Defensively, the Pirates have surrendered just 27.0 points per game (third-fewest since 2015) and has held opponents to 111.4 ground yards per game in 2022, which ranks 18th nationally.

“This is an exciting opportunity for the young men in our program who have shown an exemplary commitment and dedication to moving our football program forward in a positive direction,” Houston said. “Playing in back-to-back bowl games is another step in our journey to restoring the prominence of Pirate Football. I know our young men will be prepared, focused and enthusiastic to represent the Purple and Gold in Birmingham.”

This will be the Pirates’ second bowl appearance under Houston following the 2021 Military Bowl, which was canceled due to COVID-19 protocols within the Boston College program. ECU is also set to play its third bowl game in the Birmingham area after participating in the Inaugural Papajohns.com Bowl in December of 2006 (vs. South Florida) and the Birmingham Bowl in January of 2015 (vs. Florida).

Once finalized, ticket information for the Birmingham Bowl will be sent out to Pirate Club members and the Pirate Nation.

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — Coastal Carolina (9-3, Sun Belt) vs East Carolina (7-5, AAC), Dec. 27, 6:45 p.m. ET

LOCATION: Birmingham, Alabama.

TOP PLAYERS

Coastal Carolina: QB Grayson McCall is a three-time Sun Belt Conference player of the year. He returned for the league title game after missing two straight games with a foot injury.

East Carolina: RB Keaton Mitchell, a first-team All-AAC pick, has rushed for 1,325 yards and 13 touchdowns while averaging 7.4 yards per carry. Had 222 yards and four touchdowns against Temple.

NOTABLE

Coastal Carolina: Lost to Troy 45-26 in Sun Belt championship game. North Carolina State offensive coordinator Tim Beck was hired as coach on Sunday after Jamey Chadwell left for Liberty.

East Carolina: Has posted consecutive winning seasons for the first time since 2013-14. Snapped a two-game losing streak with a 49-46 win over Temple, taking the lead on Holton Ahlers’ 38-yard touchdown pass to Jaylen Johnson with 1:11 left.

LAST TIME

First meeting.

BOWL HISTORY

Coastal Carolina: The Chanticleers are making their third consecutive bowl appearance, splitting two trips to the Cure Bowl. They moved up to FBS in 2017 and were eligible for bowl games starting the following season.

East Carolina: Third time in a Birmingham bowl game, 9-11 all-time in bowls. Last year’s Military Bowl was canceled because of COVID-19 protocols within the Boston College program.