Florida Gator graduate capitalizing on FGCU success for all the right reasons

Florida Gulf Coast Eagles guard Sherwood Brown (25) signs autographs following practice the day before the semifinals of the South regional of the 2013 NCAA Tournament at Cowboys Stadium. (Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports)

Florida Gulf Coast Eagles guard Sherwood Brown (25) signs autographs following practice the day before the semifinals of the South regional of the 2013 NCAA Tournament at Cowboys Stadium. (Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports)

The Florida Gulf Coast University basketball run is one of those few magical stories that transcends sports and strikes a chord within the American consciousness. “Dunk City” has become a nearly unprecedented sports bandwagon phenomenon — as well as an unlikely source of pride for all of southwestern Florida.

As with any hot trend, people are cashing in on everything from t-shirts to haircuts. On the surface, it appeared University of Florida graduate Ryan Sherry was looking to do the same when he scooped up the domain for FGCUdunkcity.com. But on the eve of his alma mater’s game against the world’s newly adopted basketball darlings, Sherry is hoping a $30 “investment” can help strengthen FGCU long after the team’s magical run is over.

[Gear up: FGCU t-shirt lets newbies know exactly where Dunk City is on a map]

Sherry has always had a relationship with both schools. Born in an orange and blue crib the son of Gator fanatics, Sherry grew up in Ft. Myers. By the time he was nearing high school, the area would birth its own school — FGCU. Sherry went on to play tennis for UF, becoming a member of two SEC championship teams and earning conference tournament MVP in 2005.

After graduating he returned home, where he became a volunteer assistant coach for the Eagles’ tennis team. He followed FGCU basketball and paid attention to the rise of “Dunk City”. Browsing the internet Saturday morning before the Eagles’ Round of 32 game against San Diego State, Sherry checked to see if anyone had secured a domain name for Dunk City. Although “dunkcityFGCU” was taken, “FGCUdunkcity”, the name he preferred, was still available.

Sherry bought if for $30, but said he didn’t think much about it leading up to the game. Then, during halftime against San Diego State, he had an epiphany about its potential. He contacted a friend named Michael Knox, a graduate student at FGCU savvy with web design. He quickly mocked something up so there could at least be something pertinent to Eagles basketball if anybody else discovered the site.

News sources found it a few days later. CBS, NBC and several local newspapers and television stations contacted Sherry beginning Monday March 28. In a time when trends like “Tebowing” and “Kaepernicking” are quickly hyped, bought, sold and forgotten, Sherry realized this site could do something more.

Instead of selling, he hopes it can become a fundraising and promotional tool for his adopted school. He said he’s looking to contact the administration and athletic association to see if they can use it as well.

“At UF we’ve been blessed thanks (to the school’s football and basketball coaches), playing a non-revenue sport, that football and basketball gave us, the smaller sports, huge budgets,” Sherry said. “I’m hoping that the success of basketball will help the revenue of the smaller sports at FGCU.”

On Friday night Sherry will root for the Gators. Win or lose he knows their athletic success in the past will continue to give them success in the future.

Florida Gulf Coast, on the other hand, is seeing national success for the first time ever. Something as simple as FGCUdunkcity.com may help them even further.

“Even if FGCU loses this game I don’t think this whole ‘Dunk City’ thing is over,” Sherry said. “It’s not going to be a one-and-done. It’s going to be a legitimate branding.”

Forget merchandise and websites, we’ve got a ballin’ FGCU rap video