BONITA SPRINGS, Fla. — The memorable, record-setting 2012-13 FGCU men’s basketball season garnered more recognition on Thursday as Dunk City took home The News-Press Media Group’s top annual award for Lee County, the 2013 People of the Year.
The award goes to someone (or multiple people) with great promise, and The News-Press commits to following a person’s or people’s progress. FGCU coaches Marty Richter and Michael Fly, in addition to director of operations Joey Cantens, were in attendance at St. Leo the Great Catholic Church to accept the award on the team’s behalf.
FGCU – which last year became the first-ever 15 seed to advance to the Sweet 16 – beat out two other finalists: Edison State College President Jeff Allbritten and the duo of Jim Moore, former economic development director, and Brent Barkway, Lee County’s business development director. Moore and Barkway encouraged rental car company Hertz to relocate its headquarters to Estero.
“This award speaks to the special group of kids we had and how the whole city got behind us,” Fly said. “The fans are the biggest part.”
Those fans, who are now turning out in record numbers to see the Eagles in Alico Arena this year, saw the birth of Dunk City in March as FGCU defeated traditional power and second-seeded Georgetown in its first-ever NCAA Tournament game and then advanced further with a victory against No. 7 seed San Diego State.
The wins not only put FGCU on the map nationally, but sparked an intense interest in Southwest Florida. A study done by FGCU’s Regional Economic Research Institute estimated that the school’s economic impact in 2012-13 was $422 million. Furthermore, the high-flying aerial attack played a prominent role in helping increase FGCU’s freshman applications this past fall by roughly 35 percent.
On the same night as the FGCU men’s basketball team was honored with the award, it hosted 4,580 spectators in Alico Arena to represent the second-largest home crowd in program history. The largest attendance occurred earlier this year as 4,633 fans were in a standing-room-only capacity to watch the Green and Blue take on local foe Ave Maria. FGCU’s average attendance is up nearly 1,800 fans per game from 2012-13, an increase of more than 400 percent.
In addition to the increased ticket sales and applications to the university, Dunk City helped expand awareness in SWFL for FGCU. The Athletics Department has created advisory committees in Naples and Sarasota to extend the brand and aid in fundraising efforts for all of FGCU’s 15 athletic teams. In December, the 4th annual Night at Nest gala raised a gross total of $385,000 for the department thanks to generous community support.
Dunk City also made it significantly easier for fans of all ages throughout the nation to follow the Eagles as starting at the end of last month all men’s and women’s basketball home games have been carried on ESPN3 and the WatchESPN app. ESPN3 is available to approximately 83 million homes at no cost to fans who already receive their cable or Internet from select providers. Additionally, FGCU has already played seven games on either national or regional TV, and had its Midnight Madness event showcased on ESPNU and its home opener on ESPN2 as part of the network’s 24-Hour Tipoff Marathon.
FGCU returns to action at The Nest on Saturday night as the Eagles host ETSU at 7:30. The game will be broadcast on ESPN3, not WINK TV as previously scheduled. Another maximum capacity crowd is expected, so fans are encouraged to purchase what limited tickets remain in advance and arrive early.
All 2013-14 men’s basketball season tickets are selling quickly, and only a limited amount remain. Fans can reserve their seat(s) by visiting the Alico Arena Ticket Office, calling 239-590-7145 or logging on to FGCUAthletics.com/Tickets.
For up-to-the-minute information and behind-the-scenes access to the men’s basketball program, follow @FGCU_MBB on Twitter and Instagram, and “Like” us on Facebook at /FGCUMBB.