A March (Madness) to Remember

coach holds trophy
Head Coach Donnie Jones holds up the ASUN Championship trophy, as the Hatters advanced to their first NCAA Tournament.

March was a quite a month to remember on the Stetson campus — for Hatters everywhere, especially those who follow men’s college basketball. 

Yet, for the university, this was so much bigger than basketball. 

Sure, for the Stetson Hatters, their effort in both advancing to NCAA Tournament and in taking the court against the UConn Huskies was valiant and historic. The Hatters were playing in their first-ever Big Dance. The Huskies were defending national champions.

The Hatters hadn’t advanced to this stage of a men’s basketball season since becoming a Division I program in 1971. That was three years before the Edmunds Center, the team’s home court, was built. Also, that was back when legendary coach Glenn Wilkes Sr. was patrolling the sidelines. He would win 552 games guiding the Hatters. Yet, he never got this far. (See Edmunds Center story below.)

The team advanced by virtue of winning the ASUN Tournament, which was exhilarating enough. And who could forget the excitement of March 17? It’s known throughout the world of college basketball as Selection Sunday, which placed Stetson on the stage in New York City.

Imagine that even practice leading up to the game was a big deal. There were pregame press conferences, too. 

Game day versus UConn brought distinction and prestige to the university.

In the end, on March 22 at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, the Huskies showed just why they once again finished on top, repeating as national champions, although the Hatters certainly showed fight. Characteristically, they never gave up.

Even more so, there was a scoreboard of far greater significance. The exposure and prestige gained by Stetson was invaluable, maybe incalculable. As President Christopher F. Roellke had become fond of saying in the days leading up to the game: “We going from Florida Gem to National Treasure. What better way to accelerate that than being part of March Madness!” 

Indeed, although the Hatters lost the game to UConn, their appearance created great excitement throughout the Stetson community and across the country. Hatters watched, of course, as did other fans nationwide. 

Stetson’s appearance also created great excitement — in Brooklyn’s Barclays Center and nationwide.

The Hatters, in retrospect, won regardless of the score. And so did Stetson University, which also saw the women’s basketball team play in the postseason Women’s National Invitational Tournament. 

How big was Stetson’s March Madness? Consider this tally: With University Marketing collaborating with Stetson Athletics during about a two-week span, an assortment of posts, videos and photo galleries resulted in approximately 1.32 million impressions. Stetson also received 29,000 mentions in the media during this time, including on MSN.com, with its potential reach of 132 million viewers, and on CBS Sports.

Finally, there are the Hatters’ own impressions to count — if that’s somehow possible. Impressions of success, pride and prestige.

Yes, for Stetson University, March was a month to remember. 

-Michael Candelaria

Edmunds Center Renovation

Stetson hopes to continue the momentum of Hatters basketball with the ongoing efforts to raise funds for the renovation of the Edmunds Center. 

Edmunds Center: A new look is on the way.

Built in 1974 as Stetson’s largest multiuse facility for both team sports (basketball and volleyball) and university events, the Edmunds Center also remains as the largest indoor sporting venue in west Volusia County.

Now, designs call for the center to meet current code standards under the Americans with Disabilities Act while also being enhanced aesthetically as a showpiece for Hatters Athletics.

Naming rights are now available, along with a host of other giving opportunities. More information is available on this website