The 2022-23' Florida Atlantic University sports season will go down as one of the most memorable for a number of reasons. From changes at the helm, historic performances, repeat performances, major fundraising announcements, and a change in conference affiliation, it had it all.
As we close out the year, Owl's Nest staffer Richard Pereira and I recently met to see how best to put the most important and memorable highlights together.
We chose not to tell each other anything about our thoughts and selections other than to limit the nominations to a Top 10 of sorts while also adding a Top Honorable Mention to accompany them.
As fate would have it, Richard decided to go with the Top Moments while I opted for the Top Storylines.
Below is what we came up with individually, and while there is some crossover given context of the requirements for each of us, this list encompasses a fair look at the best of the best for the Owls, both on and off the field of play.
We hope you enjoy reading and reflecting on them as much as we enjoyed put them all together.
And without further adieu, here they are.
Top 10 Moments of 2022-23' - Richard Pereira, Staff Writer
Honorable Mention - Dusty May: All-time winningest coach in program history
With a 67-52 win over Northern Kentucky on December 21, Dusty May placed himself at the mountaintop by having the most career wins as head coach in the program's history. It was his 77th win at the time (101st overall) as it was significant for the program, considering they didn't have a winning season for seven straight years until May became their head coach in 2018.
10. Michael Forrest: All-time leader in 3-pointers made
Who would have thought that Dusty May's first recruit as head coach would end up putting himself in the echelons of FAU basketball history? That's what Michael Forrest did when he made his 288th three-pointer against Charlotte on February 4 to become the program's all-time leader in three-pointers made. The marksman finished with 305 three-pointers total to end his memorable five-year career with the Owls.
9. Johnell Davis' 36 points against UAB
Want to know how a masterclass performance against a strong team should look? Then look no further than Johnell Davis' night against the UAB Blazers on January 5. He put up a career-high 36 points alongside six rebounds on 11-17 shooting to will the Owls to victory. It was the first major sign of what turned out to be an amazing breakout season for the scrappy and resilient guard.
8. John McCormack: 500 career wins as FAU Baseball head coach
With the 5-4 win on the road against No. 15 Florida Gulf Coast on April 11, head coach John McCormack reached the milestone of 500 career wins with FAU. The Owls never had a losing season with McCormack leading the way, finishing his 15th season as head coach with a 34-25 record (16-14 C-USA). A great moment for Coach Mac to savor, having been with the program for 33 years since 1991.
7. Hunter Cooley's career-high 12 strikeouts in the C-USA Tournament
In what would turn out to be his last career start on the mound for FAU Baseball, Hunter Cooley arguably played one of his best games as an Owl in an elimination game against Rice in their last C-USA Tournament. He pitched for the entire outing, the fifth time in his career, as he struck out 12 of Rice's batters to keep FAU alive for one more game. In what was a streaky year for him, Cooley can leave the program with his head held high after five seasons.
6. FAU Baseball beating nationally-ranked Miami twice at home
Some of FAU Baseball's best highlights during an up-and-down 2023 campaign feature two home victories over the nationally-ranked Hurricanes. While they were unable to secure the season series against Miami for the first time since 2018, the Owls can be proud that they got two games over a Hurricane squad that ended up reaching the 40-win mark and punching their ticket to the NCAA Regionals.
5. Nolan Schanuel winning C-USA Player of the Year
While his season could have ended better, it doesn't take away from the fact that Nolan Schanuel was spectacular in his final year with the FAU Baseball program. He took home C-USA Player of the Year, finishing with a .447 batting average, a .868 slugging percentage, a .615 on-base percentage, 64 RBI, and 19 home runs. With the attention he is getting as a potential first-rounder in this year's MLB Draft, Schanuel will represent FAU quite nicely in the major leagues.
4. Dusty May winning C-USA Coach of the Year
Finishing the regular season with a 28-3 record (18-2 C-USA), it was inevitable for FAU to dominate in C-USA's regular season awards with Dusty May being at the forefront. He won the conference's Coach of the Year in undisputed fashion, showing conference opponents and the rest of the country what the Owls are truly capable of.
3. FAU Basketball celebrating their C-USA Regular Season Title after going undefeated in The Burrow
Defending the home court game in and game out is key to testing a team's strengths, and FAU did that to perfection. Torching UTEP 75-49 in the home finale on February 25, the Owls closed out their home schedule with a perfect 17-0 record which was the first time in program history that they accomplished the feat. They also got to celebrate their first C-USA Regular Season title in front of 3,130 fans (program record). Making the fans proud they did indeed.
2. FAU Basketball winning the C-USA Tournament in their final season
If there was any way FAU was concluding their last appearance in the C-USA Tournament, it was going to end up with them winning the championship. Having the one-seed, the Owls cruised their way to the title with a blowout win against Western Kentucky, a nail-biting victory over Middle Tennessee, and a dominant rout against UAB to celebrate their first and last C-USA title and punch their second-ever ticket to the NCAA Tournament. Closing out their time in the league with style.
1. Dusty May signing a 10-year extension to continue coaching at FAU
With the Owls' run to the Final Four, FAU made sure to keep Dusty May as their head coach in the long term, securing him on a 10-year contract extension. After five consecutive winning seasons and everything they have accomplished throughout the 2022-23 campaign with him at the helm, retaining May was always a top priority for FAU to continue competing at the grand stage.
Top 10 Stories of 2022-23' - Rick Henderson, Site Manager
Honorable Mention - Goldstein's walk-off grand slam vs #15 FGCU
FAU Baseball had a number of story lines throughout the season, some of which were expected. What is never expected is a walk-off grand slam against the number 15 team in the nation. But that's just what left fielder Dylan Goldstein did to the Owls' little cousin from Fort Myers. With the game tied at 4-4 his patience throughout the night to get his pitch finally paid off. "I was waiting for one all night, but they weren't really coming to me. I knew they were going to throw a fastball to me there, and I hit it good," said Goldstein. Yes, that he did.
10. Owls Bomb Gators - November 15, 2022
Owls Bomb Gators in Upset Road Win - FAU Owl's Nest
In what could appropriately be described as the landmark, or turning point of the 2022-23 men's basketball season, the Owls took a four hour bus ride to Gainesville to participate in what is traditionally a developmental and fundraising opportunity for the program. Not only did they cash in on a pay day in the 76-74 upset fueled by a 54.2% showing from downtown, they received a confidence injection that would enable and propel them into a program record 19 more consecutive victories while setting the stage for an eventual historic run through the Conference USA regular season, Championship, and NCAA Tournament.
9. McCormack's 500th Win - April 11, 2023
Once a multi-positional and most valuable player at fellow Boca Raton program Lynn University, now FAU Baseball skipper John McCormack has perhaps the most storied tenures of any coach to serve the Owls. During his thirty three (33) year career at FAU that continues to flourish, he's played an integral part in both recruiting and coaching a large majority of the Owls' formers now in the pros. Passing on other opportunities to go elsewhere over the years, he exhibits true loyalty to the FAU community. In addition to earning Coach of the Year in Conference USA - the Owls' highest level of play to date - getting that 500th dub under the belt as the head man is just another meaningful and well deserved milestone for the program's gift from above that is Coach Mac.
8. Sandy Owls Rebound With NCAA Appearance
Overcoming tragedy in the loss of their former Coach, the FAU Beach Volleyball program picked up right where they left off with yet another NCAA post season appearance for the record book. Fittingly, they also honored new Head Coach Steve Grotowski who took over for his late wife Capri Grotowski, by sweeping the Conference USA major post season awards and affording him Coach of the Year. Resilience at its finest.
7. May Stays! FAU Retains Dusty May as Head Coach - March 30, 2023
May Stays! FAU Retains Dusty May as Head Coach - FAU Owl's Nest
FAU fans, alumni, and students owe homage to a man who basically bought into a project that others in his position would likely have passed on when then Gator Assistant Dusty May made what he originally thought was a mistake by taking the Head Coach position of the rebuilding effort that was men's basketball. Fortunately for all parties involved, he not only brushed off the noise of sub-par locker rooms and office space when recruiting, but also built a blue-collar trust system that prospects bought into while assembling a selfless and team-trust centered approach to play. In year five, it paid out at the highest level of exposure possible. And he'll continue doing so for a long time after signing his new deal as the continued leader of now national hardwood name Florida Atlantic University.
6. Herman Hired - December 1, 2022
Herman To Lead Florida Atlantic Football - FAU Owl's Nest
Athletic Directors have three main calling cards when pushing their resumes across the table - successful hires, upgrades to facilities, and negotiating conference membership. That said, Brian White likely now has a royal flush in his hand. Alongside retaining Dusty May, White adds two major gifts, a conference promotion, and the landing of proven winner Tom Herman as the next coach for FAU Football. Choosing to go off script with a non market hire, he's brought in a leader who appears to have just what it will take to get the Owls back to the glory days of Lane Kiffin's run. And, as fate would have it, they are also friends. Locking in support and comradery from former head staffers is something new and an added bonus to this grade "A" hire.
5. Owls Defeat UAB for C-USA Championship - March 12, 2023
FAU Burns Blazers to Punch Ticket to The Big Dance - FAU Owl's Nest
Leaving a conference on a high note is not only a well-timed desirable, it is also a statement. Checking in as the #1 seed the Owls would actually find themselves as underdogs against the Blazers in the final - a team they lost to previously in the year. But there was no doubt who the better team was when the final horn sounded and they were up by 22 points, which allowed them to cut down the nets in unrestricted celebration as undisputed Champions of Conference USA in their final league contest.
4. Hagerty Athletic Village - December 13, 2022
FAU Receives $5 Million Gift to Create Hagerty Family Athletics Village - FAU Owl's Nest
You have to think that when FAU VP | Athletic Director Brian White was courting American Conference Commissioner Mike Aresco, potential facilities plans took somewhat of a center stage in ear whispers. Thanks to the generosity of Michael and Michelle Hagerty, he had some sweet nothings to offer while providing a pretty picture of the their possible future together in a conference agreement. This gift has not only raised the bar for the non-football sports, it has also put the program on the come up in recruiting as well and is a major accolade to be celebrated.
3. The Baldwin Arena Gift - November 16th, 2022
FAU Receives $7.5M Gift To Name Arena - FAU Owl's Nest
Much has been said about what used to serve as a multi-purpose facility for not only Athletics, but also graduation ceremonies and occasional Miami Heat visits. Now devoted primarily to home contests for Owls' basketball and volleyball, the facility is set for a new repute and a complete makeover to bring it into the American Conference era by way of the philanthropic showing of Eleanor Baldwin. With what has been floated surrounding the immediate changes coming to the existing structure, and likely to be built adjacent structure, fans will be in for a enjoyable treat watching future contests, and players will be honing their craft in more upscale surroundings soon. Most importantly, the gift set a firm foundation for keeping Coach May.
2. The Final Four Run - April 1, 2023
Incredible Season Comes To An End as Owls fall to San Diego State in the Final 4 - FAU Owl's Nest
Despite the lopsided 81-46 outcome, no one could have possibly imagined that when men's basketball started the season on November 7th hosting Lynn University they would later take the court in Houston against San Diego State in a Final Four match-up before a global audience. Picking off Memphis, Tennessee, and Kansas Sate as underdogs while adding an expected victory over Fairleigh Dickinson, FAU earned five "units" worth of payouts from the NCAA's media deal in their unfathomable run. As a result, the Owls brought in at least $1,694.435 worth of revenue to be spit amongst C-USA's 11 programs - which would be the equivalent of last year's sum for the same number of units. Furthermore, the eventual official payout figure will be realized for six years in total. However, the total exposure and goodwill gained from all contests along the way once the ticket was punched is immeasurable. One thing is for sure though, and that is that all home contests games next year have the possibility to be sold out, while University enrollment should see a notable bump as well.
1. FAU to The American in 2023 - June 10th, 2022
It's Official! FAU Move to American Set for 2023 - FAU Owl's Nest
Programs wait in earnest for the opportunity to move up the ranks - to "graduate", and progress towards the highest level of competition possible. Successfully completing stints in the likes of the Trans American Athletic Conference, Sun Belt Conference, and Conference USA, FAU Athletics has now been afforded yet another promotion with their upcoming membership in The American. This is the icing on the cake of many memorable story lines over the course the last year that paves the way for more significant monetary and competitive opportunities while also serving as another rung in the ladder of its climb. Public celebration across all news and social media channels, and ongoing in person events, only goes to further the resolve that this move is the biggest story to date in both the 2022-23' news cycle as well as the forty three (43) year history of the University's Athletic program.
We hope you have enjoyed our best foot forward at presenting the Top Moments and Top Stories of the 2022-23' athletic season for Florida Atlantic University.
What are your top selections? Feel free to comment below and let us know.
Until next year, Go Owls!