EDITORIAL: Men’s basketball needs to move to a stronger conference
Due to the recent and sustained success of the men’s basketball team, it is time to ask us, has FGCU outgrown the Atlantic Sun Conference?
The basketball team’s success started with a bang in 2013, with its first 20-win season in division I history, capping the year with a magical run to the sweet 16.
Since then, FGCU has had five straight 20-win seasons, reaching the NCAA tournament in three of the last five years.
The support of the program has grown every year, with attendance to games doubling since 2012.
The only dark cloud dangling over the head of the team is the fact that they are in one of the weakest conferences in the country.
This year, there were only two teams with winning records in the ASUN conference — FGCU and Lipscomb.
If FGCU wants to become a storied mid-major program, it has to start by playing in a stronger conference.
A stronger conference means a stronger schedule and a better chance at getting a lower seed in the NCAA tournament.
FGCU faces a couple challenges in changing conferences, the first being the lack of a football program.
When changing conferences, all sports change.
While our other sports can handle their own, the lack of a football team means a lack of revenue for any potential conference.
While it would be costly, it might be worthwhile to move to a stronger conference and expand the athletic programs.
The second challenge is stadium capacity. Alico Arena currently only holds 4,633 people.
If FGCU wants to move up, a stadium expansion is almost certainly in the future.
The question that needs to be asked is — if FGCU switches conferences — what are some potential and realistic suitors?
A good fit would be Conference USA or the Atlantic 10 Conference.
FGCU has already proven it could transition to Conference USA and thrive by beating three of the conference’s teams this year (FIU, FAU and Louisiana Tech).
Already having two other schools located in Florida in the conference, it would be great from a logistical standpoint.
Travel would be less taxing on the players and athletic department and there would be more opportunities to play against stronger, competitive teams.
The Atlantic 10 Conference would be a dream conference with a few bigger, more competitive schools, such as George Mason, UMass and Virginia Commonwealth.
While the schools in the Atlantic 10 are farther away, most of the teams in the Atlantic 10 do not have football programs, making it easier to pitch our school as a potential suitor.
Fort Myers is a destination city; most teams could make a small vacation out of coming to the city, which could be a talking point when pitching our school to the conference.
Whether it be Conference USA or the Atlantic 10, it has become more and more obvious with the continued success of the athletic programs that FGCU needs to find a stronger, more competitive conference to compete in.
It will allow the school to land bigger recruits and allow for more revenue to flow by drawing even bigger crowds to the games.
Having better teams come to Fort Myers will only attract more fans and give them something to be proud of in the local community.
The time is now for FGCU.
Waiting any longer could endanger the possibility of joining a stronger conference.
The clock is ticking, FGCU.