Florida Gulf Coast University had its 15 minutes of fame back in March. They were the team everyone fell in love with. They were featured on ESPN, Fox, and CBS etc. They were in Sports Illustrated, USA Today and even The New York Times. The coach left. The buzz fell off, and FGCU returned to normal.
Well, not really. There’s a new normal here.
The nation still loves FGCU. More importantly, television executives love FGCU. They love the team so much that they selected FGCU as one of nine schools for its ESPNU Midnight Madness coverage (the only team not ranked by ESPN’s Jason King). FGCU reached a deal with ESPN3 to broadcast all the men’s and women’s home games.
FGCU is on a ride that we don’t want to end. When I got here two years ago, I was lucky if I walked around outside of Southwest Florida and somebody said, “Oh hey FGCU! Go Eagles!”
As basketball season approaches the excitement seems to be building. The bookstore is starting to stock more Nike apparel, more stories are starting to appear in local papers and you can see new advertisement in Alico Arena.
FGCU is no longer a mid-major program that the big schools can pick on and beat by 30 points. In fact, they can’t even schedule big-time programs because they are the ones scared that they will lose.
Two years ago, FGCU had one game broadcasted on the ESPN family of networks, which was the Atlantic Sun Championship that they lost to Belmont after going 15-17. This year, the team has 17 games on ESPNU, ESPN3 or ESPN2. It has seven others on different networks and just seven slated for no television. But two of those seven are a part of the Las Vegas Classic, and I’m sure that they will get picked up by somebody.
This is the end of FGCU as we used to know it. But trust me, it’s in a good way.
The small D-I team from Estero will be known nationwide as FGCU. Not Fla. Gulf Coast or Florida GC. This team and this school and this program are going places. Just look at how far they have come in the last five years.
Imagine what will happen in the next five. New complexes? New conference? Football team? Not too sure about the last one, but the first two I’m sure of. This year is just the beginning of national television games. Soon we will be among the mid-majors that get contention for national championships and respect that teams like Butler University, Wichita State University and Creighton University get.