ESTERO — College T-shirts are a grand tradition, a block letter pride point no matter where your school stands in the sporting world, something to keep in a sacred sock drawer until you die.
Surely that was true at Florida Gulf Coast University. In March 2012, the school bookstore reported selling $5,483 worth of women's FGCU hats and clothes, and $14,624 for men.
Ahem. Fast forward to this month and its madness, when FGCU's previously unheralded basketball team beat No. 2 Georgetown and No. 7 San Diego State in the NCAA Tournament, and remains in the hunt for a national title. This month the school reports that sales shot up to $34,034 for women's apparel and $114,870 for men's. That's a bajillion percent increase.
The school's website is going crazy, too.
In quieter times, before anyone knew much of the team and its coach and his supermodel wife, visits to fgcu.edu hovered between 20,000 to 49,000. When FGCU beat Georgetown Friday, website visits soared to 117,344.
Sunday, FGCU beat San Diego State and became the first No. 15 seed in tournament history to reach the Sweet 16. That day, more than 177,000 people visited the blue-and-green website with its message of "Sustainability, Excellence, Service."
Monday, when shirtless dudes gathered for a pep rally and writhed in blue body paint and players did their Eagle dance and fans shrieked DUNK CITY, DUNK CITY, DUNK CITY, website visits topped 230,000.
And you better believe people wanted T-shirts. The school will calculate updated dollar figures again today.
Melissa Santimaw and her husband drove to campus Saturday. The proud 2005 alumni wanted an exciting shirt to let everyone know her allegiance. The bookstore was flooded with three times its normal foot traffic that day and had lines out the door. It carried only one sartorial option for Santimaw, a disappointingly plain blue shirt with green and white block letters that said "FGCU ALUMNI."
She bought it anyway.
Times staff writer John Woodrow Cox contributed to this report. Stephanie Hayes can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3394.