The Ultimate Guide to Florida Gulf Coast University Men's Basketball
I'm not sure what the acronym FGCU meant to you a month ago.
Maybe you thought it was a government agency or a stock market code or the kind of Internet neologism teenagers use to circumvent their parents' authority.
Or maybe you thought it stood for Florida Gulf Coast University, in which case I have a follow-up: How's the weather in Fort Myers this time of year?
Thanks to the exploits of its men's basketball team, FGCU is no longer a regional curiosity.
Over this past weekend, the Eagles became the first 15th seed in NCAA tournament history to qualify for the Sweet 16. Next Friday, they'll take on mighty Florida (main campus) for a chance to make even more history.
Before they do, let's acquaint ourselves with America's new favorite basketball team and the little-known university it represents.
Florida Gulf Coast Debuted the Same Season as South Park
In 1991, Florida Governor Lawton Chiles (aka "Walkin' Lawton") signed legislation establishing Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers, Fla. The school admitted its first student in January of 1997 and later opened that August.
The following cultural milestones also took place in 1997:
- Comedy Central aired the first episode of South Park.
- The English Patient won best picture at the 69th annual Academy Awards.
- Boy band Hanson topped the charts with "MMMBop."
- Major League Baseball inaugurated interleague play.
- Internet sensation Rebecca Black was born in Irvine, Calif.
FGCU's notable alumni list is about what you'd expect from an institution founded 355 years after Harvard.
- Chris Sale, Major League Baseball pitcher
- Courtney Jolly, professional monster truck driver
- Derek Lamely, professional golfer
The Campus Has a Beach
OK, so it's a beach on a lake.
But a beach is still a beach.
The above picture, which comes courtesy of Yahoo! Sports, depicts the view from forward Chase Fieler's dorm room.
The average March high in Fort Myers, Fla., is 80.1 degrees.
Scientists have yet to develop a cogent explanation for why all of us didn't attend college there.
They Love to Dunk
Your typical NCAA tournament Cinderella is an undersized collection of castoffs who make up for what they lack in collective athletic ability with what sportswriters like to call "pluck."
This is a sports-media euphemism for "these guys got lucky but we'd like to lionize them anyways because it gives our audience the warm and fuzzies."
Florida Gulf Coast, thankfully, is not that team.
The Eagles play fast, they play loud and they love to dunk.
I mean they love, love, love it.
According to Lipscomb coach Scott Sanderson (more on his team later), the FGCU pregame layup line is basically an ad hoc dunk contest.
Later in that same article, Stetson coach Casey Alexander told the Times that the Eagles "keep a dunk meter in their game notes."
Whatever that means, I'm on board.
In fact, the Eagles dunk with such spine-tingling frequency that—in the ultimate act of adorable hubris—they decided to rename Fort Myers "Dunk City."
Is it a bit tongue-in-cheek? Probably. But that didn't stop someone from making a surprisingly put-together music video tribute.
This Is the Second Season They've Been Eligible for the NCAA Tournament
Florida Gulf Coast played its first Division I men's basketball season in 2007-08, but did not become fully eligible for postseason competition until the 2011-12 season.
Last year—the program's first under coach Andy Enfield—FGCU went 15-17 and reached the Atlantic Sun conference title game before losing to Belmont.
Belmont, now in the Ohio Valley Conference, lost in the first round of the 2013 NCAA tournament.
Their Coach Is Married to a Former Maxim Model
The woman featured above is married to Gulf Coast coach Andy Enfield.
Her name is Amanda Marcum Enfield, and in a prior life she modeled for Elle, Vogue, Victoria's Secret and appeared on the cover of Maxim magazine.
The couple first met in 2003 when Andy offered his future bride a ride from New York to Boston so Amanda could attend—what else?—the NCAA tournament.
They were engaged six months later.
You might assume the most interesting thing about Andy Enfield is that he married a supermodel he met road-tripping. And you'd probably be right, but not by much.
Enfield is also a shooting guru who holds the Division III all-time record for free-throw shooting percentage and previously served as an assistant coach for the Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks. In 2000, he quit coaching and co-founded a health information company called TractManager that made him millions.
The whole empire-building thing took about four years, after which he presumably said to himself, "I'm Andy Enfield. I accomplish things while using the toilet that would take most people an entire lifetime. Being a business mogul is dull. I think I'll start coaching again."
And so he did.
Nine years later, he's led a school that didn't exist until 1991 to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament.
They Appear Genuinely Enthused About the Game of Basketball
If you were to turn on a college basketball game for the first time next week, you would probably assume that everyone involved in the production was desperately miserable. And you'd probably be right.
Most top-tier college basketball teams are acutely aware of their place in the billion-dollar pyramid scheme that is amateur athletics.
You can see it on the tightened lips of the reserve guard or in the bulging jugular of the manic head coach, or falling down the face of the overburdened star in torrents of beaded perspiration.
It's a business, and everyone knows the score.
Except, of course, the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles, who seem almost religiously committed to the idea that basketball should be fun.
Andy Enfield explained his coaching philosophy to Yahoo! Sports:
Enfield often limits time in the gym to less than two hours, stressing fun and focus. He wants his guys running from whistle to whistle during games, so he favors bursts of intensity over mind-numbing drills. "We're not going to scream and yell," he explains. "We're going to hold you accountable for what you do off the court. If you do, we're going to have a lot of fun together."
The Eagles dance on the sidelines and strut on the court. Star guard Sherwood Brown is partial to sticking his tongue out after made shots, and the rest of his teammates are fond of spraying Enfield with water at game's end.
After the Eagles beat San Diego State in the round of 32, a thoroughly soaked Enfield told reporters, "We don't take ourselves too seriously" (h/t NYTimes.com).
This, I can assure you, is an indisputably good thing.
They Act Like Chickens on Occasion
Consider this an extension of the prior slide.
Florida Gulf Coast is the only team in the country (and, one would assume, in the entire history of college basketball) whose bench players flap their arms like chickens after made baskets.
It is delightful.
The University of Florida Refused to Scrimmage Them
According to Coach Enfield, he tried to schedule a preseason scrimmage with the University of Florida but was rebuffed.
Karma, however, was not to be denied.
The Gators and Eagles will meet for a spot in the Elite Eight on Friday, March 29.
They've Been Lipscombed
Of Florida Gulf Coast's 10 losses this season, two came at the hands of Lipscomb, a Christian liberal arts college in Nashville with a student body of less than 3,000 undergrads.
Lipscomb finished next-to-last in the Atlantic Sun and only defeated eight other Division I schools over the course of a 12-18 season.
Florida Gulf Coast's 26 wins this season include a November 13 victory over the University of Miami. Miami, who went on to win the ACC's regular-season and conference-tournament titles, lost to only five other Division I schools over the course of a 27-6 campaign.
Record: 26-10, 13-5 (Atlantic Sun Conference)
Fight Song: "Follow the Eagle"
Alternative Fight Song I Just Made Up: "Eagle the Follow"
How They Got Here: Defeated No. 2 seed Georgetown, 78-68, and No. 7 seed San Diego State, 81-71
Claim to Fame: First-ever No. 15 seed to make the Sweet 16
Leading Scorer: Sherwood Brown (15.6 points per game)
Leading Rebounder: Sherwood Brown (6.6 rebounds per game)
Assist Leader: Brett Comer (6.6 assists per game)
Best Name on the Roster: Eddie Murray
Best Croatian-Born Player: Filip Cvjeticanin
Best Use of Consonants: Filip Cvjeticanin