FORT MYERS, Fla. — The Meyer family’s excitement has grown with each Florida Gulf Coast victory, but Gigi recalls her father’s simple, yet strong, reaction best.
It was Sunday, shortly after the Eagles, March’s newest darling, became the first No. 15 seed to advance to the Sweet 16. Florida Gulf Coast had defeated No. 7- seed San Diego State 81-71 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia. Gigi, a Florida Gulf Coast sophomore and a setter for the university’s volleyball team, received a text from father Urban that read, simply, “Wow.”
“This is crazy,” Gigi told FOXSportsFlorida.com. “We’re the talk of the nation right now. We never knew this would happen at this time. In a few years, we figured we would be on the map. But not this soon. . . . He’s definitely for the Eagles right now. I’ll admit that.”
The matchup between Florida Gulf Coast and No. 3 seed Florida on Friday at Cowboys Stadium in the South Regional is a clash of Gigi’s past and present. Urban, of course, led the Gators to two national titles with a 65-15 record from 2005-10. Meanwhile, Gigi has been swept away in the frenzy that has overtaken her campus of more than 13,600 students in southwest Florida since the Atlantic Sun tournament champions beat No. 2 seed Georgetown and then San Diego State to extend their run.
Conflicted interests? Perhaps a little. But Gigi, who turned 20 on Tuesday, knows where her heart lies.
“It’s definitely going to be a good game,” she said of playing Florida. “Regardless of the outcome, I’ll be happy. Hey, if Florida keeps going, sweet. But if the Eagles keep going, that will be absolutely amazing. I am definitely a fan of both schools. But I go to FGCU. I’m going to have to go for the Eagles on this one.”
She’ll likely have a prime view of the action. On Tuesday, she planned to book a plane ticket to North Texas to follow Florida Gulf Coast to its next destination. This came after some urging from her father, who has become quite the Eagles basketball fan when he’s not preparing for his second season at Ohio State.
His advice, as Gigi recalls it, went like this: “Hey, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for you. If you want to go out there, do it.”
Said Gigi: “It’s definitely a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I’m going to take it.”
All this is surreal for Gigi, as it is for most students on her campus. The Eagles, in only their second season of NCAA tournament eligibility, have stolen the spotlight from traditional powers with their loose, high-flying style that at times resembles pickup hoops on a playground.
For this, Gigi is proud. The national conversation has shifted to the previously little-known campus. Oh, she thought Florida Gulf Coast’s program would gain recognition in time — just not this fast.
“I knew it was awesome to have them kind of get our name out there,” she said. “I honestly had no idea that we would make it to the Sweet 16. But with Coach (Andy) Enfield being an amazing coach and the players working so hard every single day, I’m not surprised now. I’m hoping we can make it to at least the Final Four. That would be a miracle, but I know these boys are so ready for it, so prepared.”
And so is she . . . along with her famous father.
“I’ll definitely look back and be like, ‘Wow, I was a part of this,’ ” Gigi said. “Ten years from now, I’m obviously still going to be friends with all the guys. I’m going to be like, ‘Can you believe what you guys did?’ ”