If stadium bloat is a downside to the modern NCAA tournament, it is vastly outweighed by a score of positives, most of which are so obvious as to not require further explanation. I mean, it's the NCAA tournament. It obviously rules. End of discussion.
But one particularly nice bonus to the NCAA tournament's massive explosion in the past 30 years, particularly among bracket-obsessed casual fans, is how quickly an otherwise unknown school can become America's sweetheart, and what that exposure can do for the school outside of athletics. In recent years, deep mid-major runs like those from Butler and VCU have netted those schools huge branding dividends they would have never otherwise captured, which are typically followed by spikes in enrollment applications. It's the kind of advertising money can't buy.
Perhaps no school in recent memory has earned as much goodwill -- and as much otherwise nonexistent exposure -- as the 2013 Florida Gulf Coast Eagles. FGCU's Sweet 16 run wasn't just unlikely. It was also one of the most joyful, defiant displays of basketball by any underdog ever. FGCU didn't try to negate its athletic disadvantages by playing slow, because FGCU wasn't at all that much at an athletic disadvantage. As such, "Dunk City" became more than a fun nickname; it went down on the map. Apparel sales at the student bookstore looked like half-price Tickle Me Elmos on Black Friday. And then came the coup de grace ... when people realized Florida Gulf Coast's campus is literally on the beach. If you're 17 years old and you didn't at least consider FGCU for a brief second during March (at least until Spencer Hall visited and ruined all the fun), you're probably lying. Suddenly, a tiny unknown university founded in 1991 was the most famous school in the country. The Eagles turned heads.
Naturally, there is a desire, even after the departure of coach Andy Enfield to USC, to keep this momentum moving. Which is of course why FGCU outfitted new coach Joe Dooley with ... a really rad pickup truck:
— Joe Dooley (@FGCUCoachDooley) June 11, 2013
My first instinct was to make fun; let's just say "Florida" and "tricked-out pickup truck" are two awfully good places to start one's search for comedy. But I won't make fun, because a) that's not nice, and b) this truck is no more obnoxious than your average local TV news van. FGCU got a massive national boost from "Dunk City"; now it has to translate that fame into a sturdy local following. Having a bright yellow Ford F-150 at your disposal can't hurt. Plus, the Fake Joe Dooley Twitter account would absolutely love this truck. It's a win for everybody, is what I'm saying.
(HT: David Harten)