Florida Gulf Coast has shocked the nation as the first No. 15 seed to make it to the Sweet 16. Part of what makes the against-all-odds story so great is that the team has succeeded despite the lack of resources compared to Georgetown and San Diego State, both of which it beat.
I spoke with FGCU athletic director Ken Kavanagh after the team's big win Sunday night.
Darren Rovell: You've been at Florida Gulf Coast for four years now, coming from Bradley. What did you see when you arrived?
Ken Kavanagh: Well, we were in the third year of a four-year transition to Division I, but I could see at the time that it was a wonderful opportunity. The teams had had some great successes in Division II.
Rovell: How did the budget look?
Kavanagh: It was clear to me that the school was hoping to be at the Division I level operating a Division II type budget. We didn't have office spaces. We could only afford to give out 11 [instead of the normal 13] scholarships. The men's basketball coaching staff combined was making $175,000. We had a third assistant named Leo Miller, who had won more than 600 games at the high school level, helping us out for a $5,000 salary. Our recruiting budget was $15,000 each for both the men and women. Our coaches needed to get to Indianapolis, Las Vegas and Atlanta. Maybe you can do that when you can fly out cheaply from Chicago or drive around the country like our staff did at Bradley. But you can't do that when you are based in Fort Myers.
Rovell: What were you charging for home games?
Kavanagh: When I came in, you could get a season ticket for both men's and women's for $180. So it was $6 a game. [This past season, the best seats to the men's games cost less than $18 on a per-game basis.]
Rovell: How did you get your coach, Andy Enfield?
Kavanagh: He wanted the job and he applied for it. I saw he sent his stuff in, but I didn't make a phone call until someone mentioned his name and I figured it was worth a phone call ... I thought I'd talk to him for five to 10 minutes. We talked for 45 minutes and I decided I'd meet him in person. You could tell he's just a winner at everything in life. How do you get to the Sweet 16 in two years? You have a coach who is the [NCAA] all-time leading foul shooter, a guy who has a business he builds and has 100 NBA clients. I talked to Alonzo Mourning, who told me the three years Andy was with him were the best three years of his career. [Enfield was an assistant coach at Florida State and also was an NBA assistant.] Leonard Hamilton saw Andy working out Alonzo at the University of Miami and decided to take him to Florida State. We decided to hire him on March 31, 2011.
Rovell: Right now he's in the second year of a contract that pays him $157,000 a year. How do you keep him?
Kavanagh: He's obviously going to do what's best with his family, and we're going to access the marketplace and do the best as we can. It's not like we just started talking about this. We were talking about this well before we got into the NCAA tournament.
Rovell: There have been various reports that Andy is independently wealthy because of a company he founded. I've heard that's not necessarily true and has been blown out of proportion. How does that affect what you offer him?
Kavanagh: How much money he has or doesn't have isn't any of my business, and it shouldn't affect what we offer him. If LeBron James was the son of a millionaire, would he deserve less? Of course not, he's one of the best players in the world.
Rovell: How does being in the Sweet 16 help you?
Kavanagh: Well, we see that people in Southwest Florida, who could be resources for us and who never helped us before, are starting to help. My job as athletic director is to build more resources and to keep this going so our success is sustainable.
Rovell: You have now guaranteed your conference, the Atlantic Sun, three NCAA tournament units because you will have played at least three games. At $245,500 per unit, that's $736,500 per year for each of the next six years for the conference. Will your school get a disproportionate share?
Kavanagh: We're going to get one-tenth of the revenue, or actually one-ninth until Northern Kentucky is eligible. They are giving us a $15,000 stipend for each game we play.
Rovell: Are you confident you won't lose money on those financials?
Kavanagh: I haven't looked at it. It has helped us obviously that we played two games in one place so far.
Rovell: One thing you do have is a campus that has gotten a lot of attention recently. That means that you can recruit if you get people there, no?
Kavanagh: It's a "wow, holy cow" campus. It's 340 acres and you feel like you're in "Jurassic Park" with boars and wild alligators.
Rovell: Wait, what about the dorms on the lake and the spa on campus?
Kavanagh: It's one of the nicest campuses in the country. We have a beach. Everything is new, it's not like there's a gang shower. There's one in every suite. Each student gets their own sink. The classrooms are also state of the art.