FORT MYERS, Fla. —
The school has about 11,300 students, half of whom come from the state's southwest section. The campus — which includes a manmade lake and actual beach where students flock — sits on 760 acres of land donated by Ben Hill Griffin III. And that lends a certain irony to this Eagles-Gators matchup, given that Florida's football team plays its home games in what everyone calls The Swamp but what officially is named for Ben Hill Griffin Jr.
FGCU is in such infancy as a school that its oldest alumni probably have yet to turn 40.
"I've been in higher ed for a long time, worked at several institutions, and I have not experienced anything like this phenomenon," FGCU President Wilson Bradshaw said. "What has happened in the last three or four days has been exceptional. We're getting, I'm getting, my staff members are getting emails and texts from all over the country, and it's been very gratifying."
The interest has been overwhelming, at least to the servers that host the school's athletic department website. It crashed twice Sunday night, and other university sites were seeing huge upticks in visits.
Will Morse, a former soccer player at the school and now a graduate student, was waiting to buy a white sweatshirt at the bookstore. He hoped the investment of his time would lead to his parents making an investment of $200 for student tickets to this weekend's games at Cowboys Stadium near Dallas.
"It's for my mom's best friend. I don't know," Morse said. "They live in Colorado and they became fans overnight, and they wanted a sweatshirt for their birthday. So I'm the kid who's trying to make sure my parents buy me tickets."