Athletics Draws 'Traditional' Students to Florida SouthWestern

Lexi Bettermann

Lexi Bettermann came to Florida SouthWestern to receive a top-notch education and for the opportunity to continue her softball career.

When faced with a choice of where in the United States to play college softball, Minnesota native Lexi Bettermann selected the Florida SouthWestern State College Buccaneers.

Bettermann, an outfielder who first played ball at age 6, sat down with her father during the tedious college recruitment process to identify a school that gave her a chance to play while earning a degree that could open doors. While researching programs on the Internet, they stumbled upon a 2014 announcement about FSW bringing athletics back. They also read that the college hired Naples softball legend and National High School Athletic Coaches Association Coach of the Year Robert Iamurri.

"My dad and I did our research and emailed Coach Iamurri. I toured City of Palms and fell in love," she says. "It was perfect timing."

FSW had dismantled the athletics program in 1997 but, with its return under President Jeff Allbritten, the college is noticing a shift in campus demographics: new students are younger, more academically competitive and registering full-time for classes. Many of them are even choosing to live in the Lighthouse Commons dormitory on the Thomas Edison (Lee) Campus.

Athletics and student life are poised to surge at FSW following the college's 10-year lease agreement with City of Palms Park in Fort Myers and the announcement of a brand new 3,300-seat sports arena to be constructed in Fort Myers under a unique partnership with Suncoast Credit Union. Iamurri, along with Edison baseball alumnus and USA Today National Coach of the Year Jamie Corr, started the herculean process of recruiting a FSW championship team on a shoestring budget. Students from all over the United States and internationally—including one from Puerto Rico and three from New Zealand—were recruited to be FSW Buccaneers, live on campus and earn a degree that is relevant to today's job market.

Lexi BettermannBettermann says she looked at schools in her home state of Minnesota, as well as in the Carolinas and Iowa, but decided on FSW because of the softball program. Not only would she have the chance to play the game she loved under one of the best coaches in the country, but she could secure her professional future with a competitive degree. The beautiful weather and quality of life in Fort Myers didn't make her decision any harder, she added.

"My mom had always talked about moving to Florida and I thought going to college down here would be fun," she says. "I looked at schools all over the place. I really enjoy the student life here. Everyone is so friendly and inviting."

Scholarships raised by the FSW Foundation in conjunction with FSW Athletics have made it possible to attract top student-athletes like Bettermann. Although these scholarships cover some of their costs, most student-athletes recognize the fact that FSW provides a high quality education at a fraction of the price charged at a private institution. Full ride or not, they see the value of attending FSW and if given a choice would commit again.

The path each student-athlete will take is different. For Bettermann, once she earns her associate's degree in general studies, she wants to transfer to a Division I school to finish her four-year degree and play more ball. Florida Gulf Coast University is an obvious local option. FGCU's team even played a practice game against FSW in early October, so she was able to witness their style of play firsthand, but for her it's too soon to tell where she would like to go.

"Being down here gives me the opportunity to go someplace I really want to go," she says. "If I could stay in Florida, that would make me very happy."

Plan Your Support for FSW Athletics

The FSW Foundation provides $2 million in student scholarships and investments to the college every year, benefiting the more than 22,000 students served annually. If you are interested in learning more about how you can plan a gift to support FSW athletics or one of our hardworking student athletes, please contact Dr. Louis Traina at (239) 489-9210 or foundation@fsw.edu today.

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