Whenever I’ve been asked where I attended college, my response is usually: “I went to a university in Southwest Florida.” The reason, of course, is that it’s much easier than explaining the details of a school almost no one has heard of.
But that’s all changed now.
On Tuesday, someone asked the same question. My answer? “I did my undergrad at Florida Gulf Coast University.”
“Wow. Congratulations,” he responded.
I’ve got to tell you, it felt good.
March Madness indeed
So, if you’re following what’s happening in college basketball, even peripherally, you’ve heard about the FGCU Eagles. In fact, unless you’ve been holed up without TV or Internet access, you have no doubt heard at least some of the buzz.
The Florida Gulf Coast men’s basketball team is the No. 15-seed that slam-dunked their way into the national spotlight after upsetting No. 2-seed Georgetown and taking down No. 7-seed San Diego State, becoming the first 15-seed to make it to the Sweet 16.
And did I mention Florida Gulf Coast is only in its second year of NCAA tournament eligibility? The school itself was founded in 1991 and didn’t hold its first class until 1997.
After their first upset, and then their second, the Internet seemed to burst at the seams with talk of FGCU. Headlines on every major news site; videos and memes.
*** Here’s a list I compiled of some of the best and most poignant quotations about FGCU. ***
I read dozens and dozens of articles on this Cinderella story come to life. I began collecting links and was overwhelmed by the magnitude.
FGCU felt the boom, too.
According to figures released by the school, FGCU.edu had 230,985 unique visitors on Monday, while FGCUAthletics.com had 117,113 unique visitors. A month earlier, those totals were 49,143 and 3,856, respectively.
The student bookstore saw a year-over-year increase of $28,550 (521 percent) in women’s apparel sales and $100,246 (686 percent) increase in men’s apparel sales for the period of March 1-25 (via Sports Illustrated).
One of the biggest reasons FGCU became such a sensation was that the team was really fun to watch.
The New York Times described their style as “fun, fast paced, exciting, reckless, like a bunch of grown children coloring outside the lines. They became known for their 3-pointers and dunks, fast-break layups and defensive stops.
And then came Dunk City.
The phrase seemed to originate from the Georgetown game and helped put Fort Myers — now known to many as Dunk City — on the map. And as with many things, social media helped it spread like wildfire.
Florida Gulf Coast; FGCU; Dunk City. These were trending on Twitter and just about everywhere else you turned. The former no-name university now had several names, along with the interest and support of a nation.
The Eagles’ historic success has spawned so much reaction. There have been music videos and celebrity tweets and FGCU apparel every which way.
But the best part of this buzz, to me and to many of my former classmates, is the attention on the university. It’s easy for people who have never heard of Florida Gulf Coast to dismiss it entirely, or — as I read on Twitter — to assume it’s only a school that people who couldn’t get into the University of Florida would attend. That couldn’t be further from the truth.
FGCU was a school that I carefully considered attending and a school that benefited me in myriad ways. I loved it from day one and was always proud of the foundation I was helping build. I helped transform student media on campus; I worked hard to leave it a better place than it was when I first got there. I was inducted into the Student Hall of Fame in 2009, and I couldn’t be prouder of my alma mater.
Jameson Yingling, a former classmate and fellow alum who served as student body vice president for two consecutive years, weighed in on all the madness. He currently lives in neighboring Estero, Fla., so he’s been able to witness the excitement first hand.
Jameson was also one of the student leaders who really pulled for Division I sports — and he was instrumental in helping bring DI sports to the university.
“People used to laugh when I told them where I went to school. It almost got snickers and smirks when they’d ask, ‘Where is that?’ I’d tell them, ‘You just haven’t heard of it yet, but it’s a really outstanding and dynamic school.
Honestly, anywhere you go, it’s all people are talking about. It’s something that was only a dream back then. We talked about the lack of campus spirit and pride. And for those of us in leadership roles, we wanted to cultivate that and make it grow. It’s incredible to see how athletics can do that.
It’s exciting to see how sports can transcend sports and become something greater than the game being played. It has potential to go beyond the game being played and beyond the athletes. It can bring people together — and it’s done that.”
Isaac Roman, another alum who served as student body president for one year, shared his thoughts. He currently lives in San Francisco, Calif., and was also very involved in bringing DI sports to FGCU.
“I’m still getting over the excitement of becoming a Divison I school.
I feel like we’re apart of (this success). At the time we were at FGCU, we were making the hard choices we had to make. We were working toward something, and it paid off in a big really big way. I’m proud of that.
I no longer have to explain to people what FGCU is. Every time I met a new person, I would have to go through an elevator speech of what FGCU is. I’d have to try to build up credibility in two minutes. This has allowed FGCU to speak for itself.
Now I can just say, ‘I’m from FGCU, Dunk City.’
I came to FGCU because I wanted to build something and be somewhere that was new and fresh and exciting and doesn’t have 100 years of history. There was so much potential to have an impact on my life and the community.
I’ve been literally coming home from work and sitting on my news feed just running through every story, liking every comment, commenting. I feel so connected, but in a way also very disconnected.”
The fairytale’s end
Sadly, our Cinderella story came to an end last night as the Florida Gators beat the FGCU Eagles 62-50.
Of course, we’re still proud of our team and grateful for the support we’ve seen pour in. It’s only just the beginning, and it’s exciting to think of what’s next for our burgeoning Southwest Florida university.
I think Andrea McCrary, my good friend and successor at the student newspaper I left behind when I graduated, put it best:
"You know what ‘winning’ is? Going to a university where students aren’t just numbers. I had such a great experience at FGCU because of the professors I had. Each of them inspired me, encouraged me, and pushed me to reach my full potential. … Congratulations to the men’s basketball team, all the athletic teams, the students, the professors, the faculty, and the administration that comprise one of the most unique and wonderful universities in the world."
It’s my week to write a #trending column and, honestly, how could I write about ANYTHING other than Florida Gulf Coast University? Even if it hadn’t been my undergraduate alma mater (it was), this Cinderella story has captivated a nation, making FGCU — by many, many accounts — “American’s favorite college basketball team.”
It’s an incredible story, and one that makes me feel so proud to be an alumna. After reading article after article … after article … I began to glean just how special a story this really is.
Here are a selection of some of the most poignant quotations from the countless articles on this underdog sensation.
"This isn’t a Cinderella story. This is the ugly stepsisters, the ones no one knows the names of, winning the hearts of the prince."
"But it’s not just that (they are the first 15-seed ever to be one of the top 16 college basketball teams in America). No, not at all. It’s the way FGCU has leapt and heel-clicked and chicken danced into America’s hearts. It’s the memories they’ve made during games with their above-the-rim aerials and their below-the-backboard antics. In a college sporting world of corporate fakery and soiled amateurism, FGCU stands for pure joy.”
- Yahoo! Sports
"I can’t remember an NCAA Tournament team delivering a louder message than Florida Gulf Coast University did during their two games in Philadelphia this weekend. It was pretty straightforward, too. Play like you don’t have a care in the world, and the world may soon care about you.”
"They are more than just a Cinderella team this year; FGCU is a legitimately lovable underdog who wins in style and seems to have a blast doing it. If there’s any team to get behind this year, it’s the Eagles.”
- Bleacher Report
"If anything, FGCU played with more abandon and more athleticism Sunday even though a Sweet 16 berth was at stake. Instead of tensing up, they started loose and got looser as the game unfolded, playing basketball as if it were a jazz session, each player riffing off another."
- Washington Post
"In four hours of basketball, Florida Gulf Coast has done what is nearly impossible in modern sports: It has awakened wonder among a populace addicted to snark and seemingly immune to joy. The Eagles — and surely their spectacularly unconventional coach — have shaken a sport turned stodgy by over-management, by refusing to apply brakes to their basketball or their words."
- Sports Illustrated
"FGCU is an instant hysteria for our era of instant history: It took George Mason four rounds to become the national obsession that FGCU became in four days."
"What stands out most about FGCU is the moxie. They play like they believe they should be running the other team off the court — regardless of the opponent. With most Cinderellas, you expect them to lose; with FGCU, you now expect them to win."
- USA Today
"This is the story of an athletic, balls-to-the-wall team outclassing ‘better’ teams, and doing it with style. The Eagles win by running the break, attacking the rim, forcing turnovers, and never being afraid to throw alley-oops. Everything that’s fun about watching basketball, FGCU is designed to do."
"Even watching Florida Gulf Coast celebrate has become more enjoyable than switching to another game."
We lost a great one at knoxnews this week.
Jigsha Desai left our team to be the new Digital Director for Scripps at Naples Daily News in Naples, FL.
In typical Jigsha fashion, she left work on Wednesday evening and started driving to her new home where she began work today (Friday).
I’ve been blessed to be part of her team for almost eight years. In that time, she has taught me everything I know about the work that I do at the Sentinel and, more importantly, a great amount about people, friendships and strength.
This is the earliest photo I could find of the two of us together. We were attending a roast of a colleague in 2006. That’s Jigsha on the right.
If you follow the #trending column on knoxnews, you will find her final column this Sunday. Though she gave me permission to read it before she left, I couldn’t bear to do it.
Already, the office is a little dimmer.
But I look forward to hearing of the amazing new friendships she will make and interesting adventures she will have as she explores her new home.
We used to joke about giving something the “pinkie test.” It was how we referred to the corporate position on thinking outside the box. Don’t jump ALL the way out at once - just stick a pinkie out at first and test the air - then go right back in.
That’s not how Jigsha lives her life.
I know she’s already in Naples - on her first day - jumping in with both feet and leaning in with all her might.
Send well-wishes to @jigsha.
It’s my turn for the #trending column this Sunday. In order to write a less impassioned but more informed piece, I did a TON of research earlier this week . I wanted to make everything I found available to readers who were interested as it wasn’t as easy as you might think to find information from both sides of the aisle on this hotbed issue.
First, I’ll give you a little taste of my column:
Monday, I learned via Twitter that state Sen. Jim Tracy, R-Shelbyville, proposed a bill mandating ultrasounds for women seeking to have an abortion. Many clinics already perform ultrasounds to gauge the gestational age of the fetus, but Tracy’s bill proposes a detailed ultrasound that, if the patient refuses to view, will be described to her in detail.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, as of Feb. 1, eight states have laws requiring women seeking an abortion to undergo an ultrasound, but what is the purpose? Proponents claim that women who can see and hear the fetus will refuse to go through with the procedure. This logic is often shrouded in the phrase “informed consent.” In that spirit, I sought to become as informed as possible.
It’s easy to find arguments that feed whichever rhetoric you choose to espouse. With automatic filters in major search engines, it is difficult to find balanced results from which one might truly become informed. Thankfully, I have DuckDuckGo to rely on — a search engine which doesn’t track or filter bubble.
— I started by reading the text of the bill itself and breaking down what each section of the bill meant.
— This article from The American Independent was one of the first resources I found. It led me to several of the following articles, studies and data.
— 1983 article in the “New England Journal of Medicine” by that anti-abortionists like to quote to “prove” that ultrasounds deter women from having abortions. The study spoke with two women whose ultimate response was “I believe it is human.”
— I was trying to find information on what year ultrasounds became a part of standard care in obstetrics and gynecology to see if there was any intrinsic value to the Fletcher and Evans paper of 1983. After a couple of hours searching, this was the closest I could find: NIH study from 1979 stating that they still don’t recommend routine use of ultrasounds.
— Jeanne Monahan wrote a (short) paper on ultrasound policy that looks staggeringly similar to many of the legislative movements over the last few years. Included in the footnotes of her report are studies, articles and other related links.
— If you’ve read my ramblings on Tumblr before, you’re aware of my obsession with infographics. This article from Remapping Debate had some good information on the legislative movement in 2012 to circumvent Roe v. Wade with laws such as the pre-abortion ultrasound. Included, was a colorful state-by-state infographic showing the varying strictness of abortion laws in our nation.
Using that graphic and the “Requirements for Utlrasound” document below, I studied other states which have enacted similar laws.
— I found several good resources at the Guttmacher Institute:
— The Washington Post did an article in 2010 on the abortion rates in countries with universal healthcare.
— Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health conducted a study that I very much wanted to read, but it was only offered for pay, so I had to settle for a summary and several slides in a PowerPoint presentation.
I found this study very interesting — it changed my mind in a small part of this issue.
— Finally, the Tennessean did a phenomenal project last year called “Abortion in Tennessee.” Extraordinary reporting.