FGCU outshouts UF in spirit contest on Today Show

Florida Gulf Coast University wins spirit contest Friday morning against University of Florida on NBC's Today Show.

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Florida Gulf Coast University wins spirit contest Friday morning against University of Florida on NBC's Today Show.

Florida Gulf Coast University fans basked in the glow of national media attention Friday morning as The Today Show came to campus.

Today Show correspondent Kerry Sanders stood surrounded by hundreds of FGCU students, decked out in blue and green, as he did a live report in front of Alico Arena.

Students braved the cold and got to the stadium before sunrise to cheer for the cameras.

Paige Bigio, a freshman, painted her body green and wore a shiny blue tube top to show her school spirit.

"I'm cold. I'm wearing two pairs of pants," she said. "This is crazy. No one knew about our school until now."

Bigio said it has been hard to concentrate this week.

"All anyone can talk about is the game," she said. "Even my professors are talking about it."

Graduate student Megan Carter, who held a sign that said, "We actually go to FGCU," said the basketball team has done more fore the school and every individual student than she thought possible. As she applies for jobs, she said people know where she went to school now.

"It's an awesome surprise," she said of the team's success. "They are wonderful to watch. They're so much fun — it's why the nation is pulling for them."

Students chanted "Dunk what? Dunk City!" and "Let's go Eagles" to get the crowd pumped up.

Senior M. Solomon Zarendy waved banana leaves and cheered with the crowd. He said he has a friendly rivalry with his sister, a University of Florida graduate, over the game.

"This school is amazing already, but this has been amazing," he said. "I think we're going to kick the Gator's (butt)."

Junior Arlo Simonds agreed.

"Most of us are from Florida and a lot of our friends went to UF and bragged about their sports teams. Now we have something to brag about. It's awesome to feel this way," he said.

The event even attracted some non-students. Estero resident Janice Collins said she will be too nervous to watch the game tonight — she'll let her husband give her score updates — but came out to support the Eagles.

"Everyone is talking about it," she said of the game. "It doesn't matter your age, we're all excited about it."

EARLIER:

Men's basketball: NBC's Today Show live from Alico Arena on Friday morning

NBC's Today Show will be showing a live feed from Alico Arena on Friday morning to see which school has more spirit -- Florida Gulf Coast University or the University of Florida.

Viewers will see a split screen, then "decide" which school has the most spirit. The two schools' men's basketball teams play in the NCAA Sweet 16 at 9:57 p.m. Friday night in Arlington, Texas. FGCU is the first No. 15 seed to make it that far, and is doing so in its first-ever NCAA tournament appearance, while the Gators are seeded third, and won back-to-back national titles in 2006-07.

FGCU fans are asked to be at Alico Arena at 6:45 a.m. and to wear FGCU T-shirts or sweatshirts.

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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