The FGCU Athletics Hall of Fame has its inaugural class. It includes one of the most well-known basketball teams in NCAA history – the 2012-13 men’s basketball team – two standout student-athletes – Chris Sale and Brooke Youngquist Sweat – and a trio of men who helped make Eagle Athletics possible – Dr. Ben Hill Griffin III, Dr. Bill Merwin and Duane Swanson Sr.
“This is a phenomenal collection of individuals whose efforts and talents have had generational impacts on FGCU Athletics,” said Director of Athletics Ken Kavanagh.
The men’s basketball team was the first – and still the only – No. 15 seed to reach the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16, elevating the university to the national stage and earning their “Dunk City” moniker during their joyful run through the tournament.
As two of the most accomplished individual student-athletes in FGCU history, Sale and Youngquist Sweat continue to represent the Eagles at the highest level of their sport. A World Series Champion with the Boston Red Sox, Sale is a seven-time Major League Baseball All-Star. This marks the second time Sale has been part of an inaugural Hall of Fame class, as he was among the first honored by the ASUN Conference as well in 2015. Youngquist Sweat was also inducted into the ASUN Hall of Fame in 2018 and continues to be one of the top beach volleyball athletes representing Team USA in the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in 2016 and currently looking for a repeat experience in Tokyo this summer alongside partner Kerri Walsh Jennings.
Griffin, Merwin and Swanson helped pave the way for the robust athletics programs the university currently enjoys.
“There is obviously no doubt that we would not be where we are today if not for the collective vision of Ben Hill Griffin III, Dr. Merwin and Duane Swanson Sr.,” Kavanagh said. “Each believed in the positive impact that intercollegiate athletics could make on a young university. Brooke, Chris and the Dunk City team embody the finest examples of their vision and what it means to compete at the highest level for the Green & Blue.”
The honors for Griffin, Merwin and Swanson all come posthumously, though their impact is still strongly felt on campus today. Griffin died last year but is considered the father of FGCU after his generous philanthropy and land donation literally set the foundation for the campus. The late President Merwin did much the same for the Department of Athletics. Merwin’s leadership and vision was key in FGCU’s ascension to the NCAA Division I level and the success enjoyed with a current count of 82 conference championship titles and 38 NCAA tournament/championship appearances. Swanson, after whom the FGCU baseball stadium is named, was critical in making that complex along with the softball stadium, soccer facility and the Outdoor Sports Complex become reality – both through his own generous contributions and sharing that vision with others.
“This is truly another historic marker in the journey of FGCU Athletics,” said Kavanagh who is the chair of the Hall of Fame committee. “We are all extremely thankful for the significant contributions of this group and believe it is a fitting way to honor them in perpetuity.”