FGCU's NCAA basketball run a publicity slam dunk for school

Scott McIntyre/Staff
Scenes from FGCU's win over San Diego State in the second round of the NCAA tournament on Sunday at the Wells Fargo Center.

Photo by SCOTT MCINTYRE // Buy this photo

Scott McIntyre/Staff Scenes from FGCU's win over San Diego State in the second round of the NCAA tournament on Sunday at the Wells Fargo Center.

Getting ready to brave bookstore lines that ran 60 people deep, sisters Marva Eberly and Mavis Sutton stood around a clothing rack Monday afternoon picking out clothes for Eberly’s grandson.

Before March Madness, her grandson didn’t know Florida Gulf Coast University existed. Now, the high school freshman basketball player is talking about attending FGCU and living with his great aunt, Sutton, in her Fort Myers Beach condo.

“I said that last night, this is the greatest PR for them ever,” Sutton said. “And it can’t be manufactured.”

Following the men’s basketball team’s induction to the Sweet 16, university officials have experienced an onslaught of attention nationwide, saying it likely will translate into more applications from prospective students.

In the day after the team’s victory in Philadelphia, there were about 177,000 hits to the university’s home page, said President Wilson Bradshaw.

“Over the last few days, even today we were on the cover of USA Today, local newspapers, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, the New York Post,” he said Monday. “I mean, it’s just been great, great exposure nationwide and internationally, if you count all the tweets that have been going on around the world.”

To show website visitors that FGCU is more than basketball, officials also have been highlighting the success of one of the university’s music students, Priscila Navarro, a pianist who recently played at Carnegie Hall.

“We sort of juxtaposed those two events, just so those visiting our website can see that this university is about a lot of things. We are multidimensional. Athletics is a significant one, and it’s the one in the limelight right now but we have the arts we have the sciences, we have the health professions and education, so we are a fully comprehensive public university,” Bradshaw said. “And, you know, if people are driven to our website because of our men’s basketball team success, so be it.”

Bradshaw said officials have begun crafting a plan to capitalize on the team’s success, including further work on its website and possible new designs for the university. In the short term, it’s managing media requests and putting the school’s best foot forward.

Given that the success is fresh and the admissions cycle for prospective students is nearing its end for next fall, Bradshaw said he was hesitant to make any predictions for how many more prospective students will apply. But he knows there will be more than last year.

“We fully expect that we’ll see an uptick in applications for admissions, if only because of other institutions that have experienced this type of visibility have experienced pretty much that increase in interest and applications,” he said.

Bill and Donna Davis, North Naples residents who were at the campus bookstore Monday buying gear, said it’s likely the school’s athletic success will lead more students to Estero.

“It helps make a name when you say that’s where you go to school,” Donna Davis said. “People are going to know now.”

Bill Davis predicted FGCU’s admissions would experience a pattern similar to that at Syracuse in his native central New York.

“With a school like Syracuse, a lot of kids go to school there for the sports,” he said. “Most kids know about Syracuse because of athletics.”

Senior Carreon Jackson said the reaction hasn’t created school pride — just uncovered it.

“We’re happy our school is getting recognition. Our school has always been good,” she said. “We had faith in it, and now just everybody else is seeing what we see.”

NCAA Tournament

The Florida Gulf Coast men's basketball team was the first 15-seeded team to advance to the Sweet Sixteen. The March Madness run ended in Texas where the Eagles were defeated by the Florida Gators 60-52 on Friday, March 29 in Cowboys Stadium. Join in on the discussion by using the hashtag #ndnfgcu in your Twitter updates and/or Instagram photos.

Get complete coverage of FGCU's road to the NCAA tournament at dunkcitypride.com »

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