By Michael Tolvo
FGCU men’s basketball’s run to the Sweet Sixteen in 2013 drew national attention. In 2014, the squad known across the country as Dunk City is ecstatic with the attention garnered locally. For years, the Green and Blue’s men’s team was often out-drawn by the women’s team also occupying Alico Arena. Those days are in the past.
While the women’s team still dominates the Atlantic Sun Conference, they now share the attention of the community and students with their male counterparts.
In 2011-12, the men welcomed 24,845 fans to the confines of Alico Arena. The next season, 36,648 fans filed in to watchSherwood Brown and company as they launched the program to new heights. This past season, a mind-boggling 73,780 fans cheered on the Eagles in just 17 games. That total exceeds the entire home attendance of the previous two years combined by more than 12,000!
You can add attendance to the numerous categories FGCU led in the A-Sun. With an average attendance of 4,340, the Eagles absolutely rocketed past every other team in the conference.
The next closest A-Sun team in home attendance? ETSU at 2,550. A difference of nearly 2,000 fans.
Proof that student and community attendance would be elevated to a new stratosphere came in the home opener against Hartford. As part of ESPN’s 24 hours of basketball, the Eagles took on the Hawks in a 7 a.m. weekday tilt that was aired on ESPN2. Students showed their support and school spirit by tailgating the twilight event and packing The Nest. Afterwards, many students headed straight to their Tuesday classes in full-on Green and Blue attire.
FGCU coach Joe Dooley has recognized the outstanding support his crew receives on a nightly basis. “The student section has been absolutely tremendous,” said Dooley, who just completed his first year at the helm after serving 10 years as the top assistant at Kansas. “The area has really come to support the university. They’ve done a great job getting behind our school and been very supportive of our team and our program.”
Not only did FGCU make headlines in the A-Sun, but the Eagles’ faithful are also being recognized nationally. The Green and Blue is one of merely five teams to increase their home attendance average by more than 2,000 from 2012-13 to 2013-14. Among the other names on the list include powerhouse programs such as Syracuse, Virginia and Nebraska (read the full story at http://www.ncaa.org/about/resources/media-center/news/big-ten-breaks-own-record-men%E2%80%99s-basketball-attendance?division=d1).
This upcoming season, the Eagles are poised to make a return to the NCAA Tournament for the second time in three years. With incoming high-profile recruits and a bevy of well-rounded transfers, this year’s squad looks to be one the deepest and most talented ever. And if attendance is any indication, FGCU is heading in the right direction.
2014-15 men’s basketball season tickets are already selling quickly. Fans can renew and reserve their seat(s) by visiting the Alico Arena Ticket Office, calling 239-590-7145 or logging on to FGCUAthletics.com/Tickets for more information.