The Florida Gulf Coast University men’s basketball team’s magical run to the Sweet 16 has had many ramifications. Most everything has been positive. One fallout however was unimaginable.
All the attention to basketball brought to the school, locally and nationally, could very well be the death of football at FGCU. Why would a school this size, shell out the millions it takes to start a football program, never-mind continue it, unless it had to? Now they don’t have to.
Think about it. What could FGCU do in football that would even remotely compare to what they just did in basketball? Nothing.
Appalachian State beat Michigan in football in 2007. It was big. It was an attention grabber. They had won multiple 1-AA national championships.
But their coach never got invited to appear on the Tonight Show.
USF and UCF decided to play big-time college football because they schools needed it to establish an identity. FGCU just established its and at pennies on the dollar.
FIU and FAU have made the plunge into big-time college football hoping for what USF and UCF have. They’ve made little progress. Heck, they don’t have what FGCU now does.
But they have spent a few hundred million dollars.
The only reason FGCU was even thinking about playing football was because nothing they were doing in their 15 sports was attracting any interest in their own backyard. When you brought up FGCU athletics most everyone in Southwest Florida said, “that’s nice, let me know when they play football.”
That was two months ago. Now things have changed. FGCU does not need football. Certainly not now and not for the foreseeable future.
Do you think it’s a coincidence that Gonzaga, Butler and VCU also don’t play football? Oh sure some of them play non-scholarship football, but that’s glorified intramurals on the landscape of college athletics.
They don’t play scholarship football because they don’t need to. Maybe those schools will some day, but they’ll do so because they want to and can afford it.
How unnecessary is football now at FGCU? A friend of mine works in the athletic department at North Dakota State. They are the two-time defending FCS (formerly 1-AA) national champions and their men’s basketball team got some attention recently by making the NCAA tournament in their first year of eligibility. A heckuva run for a small school. I asked him if what they’ve done has brought NDSU the attention that FGCU just received? His response was quick and telling.
“No way. Our basketball team beat Wisconsin when they were in the Top 10, our football team has beaten Big Ten schools and won back-to-back titles. But all of it combined does not compare to the recognition you guys (FGCU) got. Not even close.”
He then asked if I could get him any “Dunk City” shirts?
And you still think FGCU needs to play football?
They need to give Joe Dooley and the men’s basketball program all the resources necessary to build on last month.
Then they need to find the resources to make sure the rest of the teams in the athletic department are or remain, the best in the Atlantic Sun conference.
Football two months ago was seen as FGCU’s savior. Now all football can do for FGCU, is get in the way.
Maybe that will change one day.
After all who could have envisioned what took place last month? But what has come of that, is football at FGCU has gone from a necessity to a luxury.
One they should not be in a hurry to afford.
David Moulton co-hosts “Miller and Moulton in the Afternoon” weekdays 2 to 6 p.m. on Southwest Florida’s ESPN Radio (101.5 FM Bonita/North Naples, 105.1 FM Naples/Marco Island). His freelance column runs Sunday, Wednesday and Friday.