Courtesy Western Athletic Conference.

It’s a GCU World and We Are All Living In It

Every Summer/Fall, there is a lot of hype surrounding the GCU men’s basketball team. Perhaps that is in large part to the atmosphere at GCU Arena. Maybe it is because the Lopes spend so much money marketing their men’s and women’s basketball programs.

That makes sense considering the basketball teams are the flagship athletic programs at the institution.

Or, perhaps, it is because the Lopes have one of the highest, if not the highest, budgets in the current landscape of the Western Athletic Conference.

In 2021, GCU was second in the WAC in revenue generated, behind California Baptist and led the league in total expenses in athletics. If you haven’t been to the Phoenix-based campus and seen the current facilities, you should. You would be amazed. A new softball stadium, state-of-the-art soccer stadium, and a baseball facility that rivals some of the Spring Training facilities.

Brazell Field at GCU Ballpark is home to the GCU Baseball Team. Courtesy GCU Athletics.

The Lopes have put their money where their mouths are.

With all that being said, let’s get back to the basketball side of things.

2022-23 was pretty special for the Lopes. Sure, there won’t be a banner for a WAC regular season title. However, for the second time in three years, the Lopes won the WAC Tournament and earned a trip to the NCAA Tournament.

Ray Harrison, Gabe McGlothan, Noah Baumann, Kobe Knox, Chance McMillian and the Lopes ran through the WAC Tournament on fire. Literally.

The Lopes could not miss from 3-point land in wins over UT Arlington, Seattle U, Sam Houston and Southern Utah.

With New Mexico State and Sam Houston now in Conference USA, it is GCU’s world and we are all living in it.

Coming into 2023-24, the Lopes will most likely be the unanimous favorite to win the WAC. Player of the Year candidate Ray Harrison returns after testing the draft waters. Gabe McGlothan is back. Josh Baker is back. Jovan Blacksher Jr. is close to coming all the way back from a knee injury suffered in early January.

Add in some Power 5 transfers, and another Shaw to the mix and you can see why there will be plenty of hype coming out of Phoenix.

In three years’ time, Bryce Drew has won 64 games as head coach and led the Lopes to two appearances in the NCAA Tournament.

GCU celebrates winning the 2023 WAC Tournament. Courtesy Western Athletic Conference.

Outside of the recent success of the basketball program, the other reason it is GCU’s world is NIL.

Once a for-profit school, the Lopes have money. Tie-ins to Jerry Colangelo, alumni network, and so forth.

Can schools in the WAC compete with GCU and its NIL network? Maybe…but on a much smaller scale. It goes back to the old adage…’use it or lose it.’ Now, that NIL is legal and in play, take advantage of it. And fans around the WAC can expect GCU to do so.

Some say it is a party. Others say it is a choreographed rave where students are paid to attend.


Whatever it is, GCU invests heavily in its athletic programs, especially men’s basketball. GCU Arena is one of the best atmospheres for a big game in the country. Many will dispute that.

However, when a Hall of Fame coach and an NBA All-Star make a statement about the atmosphere, it’s tough to ignore. Add in others who talk about making the trip to see a game at GCU Arena or opposing coaches raving about the atmosphere.

How many other schools around the WAC can afford to charter a flight filled with students to attend an NCAA Tournament game? How many other schools in the WAC have a Tent City setup outside their arenas with multitudes of students waiting to find their spot for a big game?

Whether or not it is a party, one thing is for sure: it is GCU’s world and we are all living in it.

About the author

Kyle McDonald

Love everything about WAC Hoops so decided I wanted to write more about it and cover this amazing conference that just keeps getting better. Follow us on Twitter @wachoopsdigest for information, game analysis and much more.

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