The 68-team field is set, the bracket is out, and the NCAA tournament soon will begin. Before the final 64 take the court on Thursday and Friday, Playbook has chosen a few small schools to examine a bit closer, taking a look at their exploits inside sports -- and far away from the fields of play. Click here for more Cinderella Stories.
If you don’t know much about Florida Gulf Coast University, you’re excused -– it’s the newest school in the field of 68 teams, not opening its doors until 1997. And the Eagles’ basketball program is only in its second year of Division I play, having joined the Atlantic Sun Conference in 2011.
So it’s OK if you don’t know much about the small public school nestled next to the Gulf of Mexico near Fort Myers, Fla. Here are some facts about Florida Gulf Coast that will certainly impress your friends while you watch the tourney this week.
• FGCU completed its four-year transition to a Division I athletics program in 2011, but basketball success isn’t brand-new to the Eagles. The women's basketball team made the tournament last year as a No. 12 seed, falling to St. Bonaventure in the first round.
• The FGCU athletic program’s most notable alumni is Chris Sale, one of the best young pitcher in Major League Baseball. The Chicago White Sox lefty pitched in last season’s MLB All-Star Game before signing a 5-year, $32-million deal with the team this winter. Sale won NCAA Pitcher of the Year while at FGCU in 2010.
• Had the tournament seeds fallen a little differently, the household of Ohio State coach Urban Meyer would have had some mixed allegiances. Meyer’s Buckeyes are No. 2 in the West bracket, while Meyer’s daughter, Gigi, plays for the FGCU volleyball team. Gigi Meyer is a sophomore setter for the Eagles.
• The Eagles’ hoops program isn’t the only FGCU program making noise -- and the noise made by junior Priscila Navarro is much prettier. The 18-year-old pianist recently performed a solo concert at the famous Carnegie Hall in New York City after winning a competition in Texas.
• Fort Myers Beach is a short drive away, but that drive isn’t even necessary for a day in the sun. One of the best amenities at FGCU is the on-campus beach located on the North Lake. During the warm months -- every month but January and February, basically -- students can be found hanging out in the sand, swimming in the freshwater lake or boating out on the water. Even if Georgetown wins on Friday, the Eagles will always have that.
• FGCU head coach Andy Enfield, a former assistant coach with Florida State and the Boston Celtics, has taken the Eagles from obscurity to the NCAA Tournament in just two seasons. And that’s not the only game he has. His wife, Amanda -- formerly Amanda Marcum -- is a retired supermodel who’s posed for Maxim, Liz Claiborne, Tommy Hilfiger and numerous others.
• Some other noteworthy alumni include former Phillies pitcher Don Carman, who earned a degree from FGCU after retirement, and Cubs pitcher Casey Coleman.