Florida Gulf Coast apparel sales soar on NCAA success

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by Chris Patterson

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- Florida Gulf Coast University, the biggest surprise in this year's NCAA tournament, is suddenly the hottest school in terms of new fan interest too.

Sales at the school's on campus book store shot up 1,000% on Saturday, the day after its upset win versus Georgetown, compared to a year ago, according to figures from Follett Higher Education Group. Follett is a private company that manages more than 900 university stores, including the one at FGCU.

The store was closed on Sunday, but online sales were going crazy as the school beat San Diego State to become the first 15th seed ever to advance to the Sweet 16. Susan Evans, vice president and spokeswoman for FGCU, said the online store handled 500 clothing orders starting at 4 p.m. Sunday compared to the typical 20 to 30 a day.

Evans said the store was being overrun with fans buying clothing on Monday, although figures were not yet available.

"We're pretty much selling everything that is not bolted down," she said.

The media attention clearly helps. By now, you probably know that coach Andy Enfield was formerly a tech entrepreneur and is married to a supermodel who has graced the cover of Maxim. The team's exciting style of play, featuring many slam dunks, also won it many new fans.

Stores near the school's campus in Fort Myers are also rushing to get the clothing on their shelves. According to Lewis Hardy, CEO of Licensing Resource Group, which manages merchandise for more than 180 colleges including FGCU, national retailers such as Dick's Sporting Goods, Target and Lids headware all placed orders for FGCU goods on Monday.

"This will get them a tremendous lift off campus, at least in that region," said Hardy about the 16-year old college in the southwestern part of Florida. "Everyone jumps on a winner. There are people wearing their stuff right now who may not even know where they are located."

Evans said that the school, which has graduated only 15,000 students in its history, had its most successful alumni events during Friday's and Sunday's games, hosting viewing parties in chapters from Ft. Myers to Boston. She said it's too soon to say if there will be an increase in alumni donations or applications from new students but she's hopeful.

The school's Web page for prospective students had a more than 400% increase in unique visitors on Sunday alone. A tweet from one FGCU player that showed the view of the beach from his dorm room may have helped increase interest among potential students.

The school's next game is late Friday night against the University of Florida. Even if FGCU's Cinderella run ends that night, Evans is hopeful that the new interest in the school can continue.

"Maybe I'm being overly optimistic, but from reactions we're getting from all over country, I think we've caught a lot of people's attention," Evans said.

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