ESTERO, Fla. - Florida Gulf Coast University's athletic program has come a long way in the last decade.
In 2000, the late president Dr. William Merwin brought in Carl McAloose, the University's first athletic director and told him to
build a program.
Now 13 years later, Carl can't help but smile as he walks through Alico Arena. "We had concerts in this arena because we didn't have any money."
Dr. Merwin asked McAloose to build an athletic department starting from scratch. "I had to go buy a pad of paper and a pencil, seriously we had no coaches, no fields."
In fact, it was at a local restaurant near campus that Carl sketched on a napkin the design that would become Alico Arena. "Our vision when we went division one was to build the Gonzaga of men's basketball, the Old Dominion of women's basketball, the Cal-State Fullerton of baseball. We wanted to be good across the board for a small school and that's the beauty of it, we are."
Inside Alico Arena, hang dozens of championship banners, from soccer to golf to baseball, FGCU athletics have had no shortage of success in their short lifetime, it's just now that they're getting noticed.
"They had something on Chris Sale the other day and right in front of the name was FGCU. That wouldn't have happened before," says McAloose.
It's a vision Carl saw from the minute he first stepped on campus for the interview. He knew there was something special in this small Southwest Florida community that together they could build a school to compete on the national stage.
"This will stay this way at FGCU for now on," says McAloose. "There was a goal to have an athletic program but it was to come three, four, five years after the school opened."
Roy McTarnaghan was FGCU's first president. He was involved in the planning stages of the University in the late 1980's. The focus the was on academics with no state funding for sports, he expected this much success so quickly.
"There was a lot of hope there would be a great athletic program but i think the success is beyond anyones expectations, it's just marvelous," says McTarnaghan.