FGCU similar to WIU, except for the weather


Joshua Gleason

Except for the beachside dormitories, Florida Gulf Coast University and Western Illinois University actually share some similarities.  

Both schools have similar enrollment numbers, with FGCU having almost 800 more students according to U.S. News. Both have acceptance rates between 65 and 70 percent, with similar freshman retention rates and similar percentages of students who belong to either a fraternity or sorority.

They also possess some similarities in men’s basketball, a sport that fans across the nation have come to love FGCU.

Both arenas — the Eagles play at Alico Arena and the Leathernecks at Western Hall — have nearly the same capacity. Each team is led by former college basketball players and former assistants at major programs. Also, each team lost in its conference championship last season. Both teams had 21 regular season wins this year, the highest mark for each school at the Division I level, and were the No. 2 seeds in their respective conference tournaments. 

Neither team had been to the NCAA Tournament before the 2013 season.

Sadly for the Leathernecks, the season carried out much differently once the conference tournaments began. The Eagles are currently still in the NCAA Tournament, becoming the first No. 15 seed to ever advance to the Sweet 16. 

The Leathernecks, decimated by injuries to star players Terell Parks and Ceola Clark at the end of the season, are part of the millions of viewers around the nation watching this run.

However, it’s not all doom and gloom for the Leathernecks.If anything, this kind of run by the Eagles should only push Western to try and achieve its goal next season of making its first NCAA Tournament like the Eagles accomplished.

While the Leathernecks will say goodbye to seniors Jack Houpt and Don McAvoy in addition to Clark and Parks, they have arguably their best recruiting class ever coming in to go along with some solid talent already in place. 

For those scared off by the youth, FGCU only has one senior who plays over 20 minutes per game — its star Sherwood Brown — and none of the players on their team have more than two years of Division I experience under their belt.

Maybe it’s too optimistic, living in the moment of a great run by another mid-major school and thinking that could be Western Illinois someday. Yet, the Leathernecks have been so close the past two years and perhaps seeing another team perform like this under similar circumstances — fairly young, never been to the tournament — is exactly the kind of inspiration this

squad needs.

Twitter: @JGleas