Florida Gulf Coast's Historic Run In NCAA Tourney Likely To Result In Increased Funding
The Florida Gulf Coast Univ. men’s basketball team is the talk of the sports world today after it became the first No. 15 seed to make the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Tournament. ESPN’s Darren Rovell notes the Ft. Myers-based school, which is only in its second year of eligibility for the tourney, is “on a shoestring budget,” and instead of having an apparel deal for its equipment and jerseys, school officials "pay for their Nike uniforms.” This is the first appearance by the 16-year-old school in the tournament, and the team’s success has forced FGCU to “bolster its servers so that its website didn’t crash” (“GMA,” ABC, 3/25). Ft. Myers’ WBBH-NBC sports anchor Rishi Barran said, “They’re getting their name on the map and it’s going to mean better students, more enrollments (and) more money coming into the school.” NBC’s Willie Geist said FGCU “is the story of the tournament” and Eagles fever is “sweeping the nation” (“Today,” NBC, 3/25).
DUNK CITY: In K.C., Blair Kerkhoff notes the NCAA Tournament's opening week produced "dominance by No. 1 seed Louisville, a Big Ten party and a Mountain West retreat," but the "biggest buzz was supplied by the 20-year-old school in Fort Myers, Fla., that is in its sixth year of Division I athletics." FGCU plays with "a freedom and fearlessness that defies the also-ran profile of most double-digit seeds." The team's run is "what college basketball is all about" (K.C. STAR, 3/25). YAHOO SPORTS' Eric Adelson wrote in a college sports world of "corporate fakery and soiled amateurism, FGCU stands for pure joy." The players are "eye candy, winning with playground hoops and streetball theatrics" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 3/24). In San Jose, Tim Kawakami writes the team "apparently has more high-flying talent than your normal NBA Slam Dunk Contest and more chutzpah than the rest of the tournament field put together." FGCU is "what the tournament is about" (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 3/25). The AP's Paul Newberry writes the FGCU players "were like the Harlem Globetrotters, charming the crowds while a pair of supposedly superior teams took on the role of the Washington Generals" (AP, 3/25). In N.Y., Scott Cacciola writes the school has "suddenly gone from one of the country’s most unknown teams to perhaps its most celebrated." It was "such compelling theater that many Duke fans -- awaiting their team's late game against Creighton -- stood and cheered for the Eagles when they returned to their bench for a second-half timeout" (N.Y. TIMES, 3/25). TIME.com's Sean Gregory writes FGCU is "the runaway darling of this year's March Madness." La Salle or Wichita State will be "one game away from the Final Four come Saturday," and if "you love 'mid-majors' in the Final Four, that's terrible exciting." But after watching FGCU "run wild this weekend, the Eagles look more likely than the others to make it all the way to Atlanta. And just imagine what a blast that would be" (TIME.com, 3/25).
SOARING EAGLE: WBBH-NBC's Barran writes FGCU "wants to re-structure" the five-year contract of coach Andy Enfield, "with the goal of making the 43-year old ... the highest paid coach in the Atlantic Sun Conference, nearly doubling his current salary to $300,000 per season." However, FGCU right now "doesn't have the money to make that happen." The school is "hoping to have donations come forward to help keep Enfield" at the school (NBC-2.com, 3/25).