Florida Gulf Coast University: This Year's Cinderella Story In 10 Shots

Mar 25, 2013
Originally published on March 27, 2013 4:59 pm

There's no bigger sports story in the nation this week than what Florida Gulf Coast University's team did during the first weekend of the NCAA Division I men's basketball championship.

A No. 15 seed in the tournament's South region, the team shocked No. 2 seed Georgetown on Friday — beating the Hoyas by 10 points; 78-68. Then on Sunday night, FGCU beat No. 7 seed San Diego State — also by 10 points; 81-71. This is the first time a No. 15 seed (there are 16 teams in each region, so FGCU was just one away from the bottom of the group) has gotten to the "Sweet 16" round of the tournament, which begins Thursday. Games will be broadcast by CBS and TBS.

Now, be honest, had you heard of Florida Gulf Coast before last week?

Well, now you have. But most of us don't know much about FGCU. So here are 10 things to know about these bracket busting hoopsters:

10. As you would expect, FGCU on the Gulf Coast; in Fort Myers, Fla. Some dorm rooms look out on a small lake.

9. The school is part of the State University System of Florida.

8. Classes were first held in 1997 (so the players are older than the school).

7. There are about 11,300 undergraduate and 1,400 graduate students; 92 percent of the students are from Florida.

6. The FGCU first men's basketball team hit the court in 2002. The team's nickname: the Eagles. They play in the Atlantic Sun Conference.

5. Superstar LeBron James gave the team a shout out on Twitter. Well, he congratulated "Fla Golf Coast."

4. Coach Andy Enfield got rich from co-founding a tech company and is married to former Maxim model Amanda Marcum.

3. The Eagles are an exuberant bunch and like to go hard to the hoop, which is why they've inspired a "Dunk City" rap.

2. If you didn't pick Florida Gulf Coast to win it all, you're in good company: Yahoo says that of the more than 3 million brackets filled out on the Yahoo! Fantasy Sports' Tourney Pick'Em contest, just 337 had the Eagles winning the championship. The only team to be chosen by fewer people to go all the way: Iona (the choice of 322 folks). Iona was bounced out in its first game, losing 95-70 to Ohio State.

1. By getting to the Sweet 16, FGCU has obviously increased its odds of winning the championship — but not by much. Nate Silver, The New York Times wizard of prognostication, says the chances of the Eagles cutting down the nets at the end are now 0.02 percent, vs. 0.001 percent before the tournament began.

Among the other places we pulled those facts from:

-- The school's "FGCU Fast Facts" webpage

-- USA Today Sports

-- The Washington Post

-- NESN.com

-- Forbes

Florida Gulf Coast's next game is Friday night against the University of Florida. Tip-off is tentatively set for 10:07 p.m. ET. The game will be broadcast on TBS.

Update at 5:14 p.m. ET. Not A Basketball School:

All Things Considered's Audie Cornish spoke to John Woodrow Cox, a writer with the Tampa Bay Times. He added one more interesting tid-bit about the university: It's not a basketball school. Their arena sits 4,500 and has two concession stands. During the games this season, said Cox, it wasn't packed.

He also said the weekend wins took students by surprise, so they did what they'd seen other schools do.

"They ran out in the streets and they yelled and they got in their cars and drove around and honked horns and hugged each other," Cox says. "But they really didn't know what to do."

The overnight note from the local police summed up the celebrations: noise for about an hour, no damage reported.

We'll add audio of Audie's conversation with Cox a little later today.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.


Now, in Florida, at least one group of people is hoping to eat gator for Lent. The Florida Gulf Coast University basketball team.


CORNISH: As that rap by an FGCU student said, the whole world thought we were going to lose. But so far, only victories for this 15th seed in the NCAA tournament. And next up, the Cinderella team that has slam-dunked into the Sweet 16 is now gearing up to meet Florida basketball royalty, the University of Florida Gators. So who, what, is Florida Gulf Coast University?

Joining us now is John Woodrow Cox with the Tampa Bay Times to tell us more about the school. And to start, where exactly is FGCU? How big or, I guess I should say, how small is it?

JOHN WOODROW COX: Now, that's a good question. I didn't know the answers to any of those questions until Friday. It's about two hours south of Tampa in a place called Fort Myers and there's about 12 to 13,000 students there. It's kind of in a remote area of sort of swamp land. So it's a school that's very new. It's opened its doors in the mid 1990s and it's just suddenly become a household name.

CORNISH: So in its very short life, has it been a basketball school or is it known for its academics in some way?

COX: You know, it's certainly not been a basketball school. The stadium there seats 4,500. The students there tell me it was about half full for most games this season. They only have two concession stands in their stadium. You know, it's a beautiful campus. It's surrounded on all sides by pines and wire grass as far as you can see. They have beaches on campus.

So it's a place that most students who go there live within a couple of hours and maybe they heard about it through a recruiter or a friend who goes there. But, yeah, certainly not a basketball school.

CORNISH: It almost sounds like they've been going around stealth recruiting amazing high schoolers or something around Florida.

COX: Well, it seems, I guess, they have, unbeknownst to everybody else. But, you know, because it seems like they have some great athletes there. But, yeah, they were completely off everyone's radar until Friday.

CORNISH: So coming in as number 15 seed, I think it's fair to say that no one saw them beating Georgetown in the first round, let alone San Diego State last night. What was it like on campus? How did students react?

COX: They really didn't know what to do. There was no precedent for this. They'd never won some big game like this before. So they kind of did what they'd seen other schools do. They ran out in the streets and they yelled and they got in their cars and drove around and honked horns and hugged each other. But they really didn't know what to do.

I got a copy of the overnight note from the police and they said basically that there was noise for about an hour. There was no damage reported and then it sort of ended.

CORNISH: Now, full disclosure, you are a graduate of the University of Florida, right?

COX: I am. I am.

CORNISH: So you've got to be nervous about this matchup on Friday, right?

COX: You know, it's an unfortunate position to be in because I would really like to be among the rest of the country rooting for this team. I don't think I'll be able to. But I'll certainly be in the minority. You know, it's interesting because, you know, Florida's the traditional basketball powerhouse in the state, but I think some Florida fans are nervous. I can say that.

CORNISH: John Woodrow Cox, he's with the Tampa Bay Times. John, thank you so much for speaking with us.

COX: Thank you.


CORNISH: You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.