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Florida Gulf Coast University: This Year's Cinderella Story In 10 Shots

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Florida Gulf Coast University: This Year's Cinderella Story In 10 Shots


Florida Gulf Coast University: This Year's Cinderella Story In 10 Shots

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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Now, in Florida, at least one group of people is hoping to eat gator for Lent. The Florida Gulf Coast University basketball team.


CORNISH: As that rap by an FGCU student said, the whole world thought we were going to lose. But so far, only victories for this 15th seed in the NCAA tournament. And next up, the Cinderella team that has slam-dunked into the Sweet 16 is now gearing up to meet Florida basketball royalty, the University of Florida Gators. So who, what, is Florida Gulf Coast University?

Joining us now is John Woodrow Cox with the Tampa Bay Times to tell us more about the school. And to start, where exactly is FGCU? How big or, I guess I should say, how small is it?

JOHN WOODROW COX: Now, that's a good question. I didn't know the answers to any of those questions until Friday. It's about two hours south of Tampa in a place called Fort Myers and there's about 12 to 13,000 students there. It's kind of in a remote area of sort of swamp land. So it's a school that's very new. It's opened its doors in the mid 1990s and it's just suddenly become a household name.

CORNISH: So in its very short life, has it been a basketball school or is it known for its academics in some way?

COX: You know, it's certainly not been a basketball school. The stadium there seats 4,500. The students there tell me it was about half full for most games this season. They only have two concession stands in their stadium. You know, it's a beautiful campus. It's surrounded on all sides by pines and wire grass as far as you can see. They have beaches on campus.

So it's a place that most students who go there live within a couple of hours and maybe they heard about it through a recruiter or a friend who goes there. But, yeah, certainly not a basketball school.

CORNISH: It almost sounds like they've been going around stealth recruiting amazing high schoolers or something around Florida.

COX: Well, it seems, I guess, they have, unbeknownst to everybody else. But, you know, because it seems like they have some great athletes there. But, yeah, they were completely off everyone's radar until Friday.

CORNISH: So coming in as number 15 seed, I think it's fair to say that no one saw them beating Georgetown in the first round, let alone San Diego State last night. What was it like on campus? How did students react?

COX: They really didn't know what to do. There was no precedent for this. They'd never won some big game like this before. So they kind of did what they'd seen other schools do. They ran out in the streets and they yelled and they got in their cars and drove around and honked horns and hugged each other. But they really didn't know what to do.

I got a copy of the overnight note from the police and they said basically that there was noise for about an hour. There was no damage reported and then it sort of ended.

CORNISH: Now, full disclosure, you are a graduate of the University of Florida, right?

COX: I am. I am.

CORNISH: So you've got to be nervous about this matchup on Friday, right?

COX: You know, it's an unfortunate position to be in because I would really like to be among the rest of the country rooting for this team. I don't think I'll be able to. But I'll certainly be in the minority. You know, it's interesting because, you know, Florida's the traditional basketball powerhouse in the state, but I think some Florida fans are nervous. I can say that.

CORNISH: John Woodrow Cox, he's with the Tampa Bay Times. John, thank you so much for speaking with us.

COX: Thank you.


CORNISH: You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.

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