Florida Gulf Coast University held a ceremony on Friday night for those who played a crucial role in their sports history and the growth of its programs. A list of legends was inducted into the Athletics Hall of Fame.
Along with the men’s basketball team that reached the Sweet 16, Chris Sale and Brooke Youngquist Sweat helped put FGCU on the national map. But, these inductees say there wouldn’t even be a map with the three remaining inductees.
A World Series champion and an accomplished Olympic athlete both got the opportunity to return to the place where it all began.
Brooke Youngquist Sweat was just inducted into the FGCU Athletics Hall of Fame. “I can’t believe that I’m with these people. So, it’s such a huge honor, and like I said earlier, it’s just like kind of surreal, like I grew up right down the road on Corkscrew and Alico. This is really my home,” she said.
Three of the others received their inductions posthumously, but their impacts continue to be felt.
Chris Sale is an FGCU Athletics Hall of Fame. “I wish I held up to the other people that were getting inducted tonight because they really set the tone for us. Without these guys, I’m nothing. I don’t have a place to play. We don’t have a university to go to school at or have a facility to use,” he said.
Ben Hill Griffin III donated hundreds of acres of land for the school to be built and was a massive donor to the athletic department. Duane Swanson Sr. was a generous donor and fundraiser who helped establish the baseball and softball complexes. He also helped create the outdoor sports complex. Bill Merwin was FGCU’s second president and helped steer the school into Divison I athletics.
Ken Kavanaugh is the director of athletics at FGCU. “If he doesn’t go Division I with the Athletic Department, there’s no Dunk City. There’s no Dunk City. There’s a lot of things that the university has benefitted from. But there’s no Chris Sale,” said Kavanaugh.
Chris Sale himself agreed. “They’re the guys that paved the way, you know, this was a dirt road, and they’re the ones that paved it for us,” said Sale.
Five pioneers and icons that helped grow FGCU into what it is today. “I just never dreamed of it becoming what it has. I’m so proud to represent FGCU, represent the blue and green. And it’s something that, you know, I just take a lot of pride in,” said Youngquist Sweat.
Because the school is approaching its 25th anniversary, WINK News asked Kavanaugh how much of its success came from these five people. He said athletics is just one part of the overall team leading to FGCU’s success.