Where is Gonzaga located? A geography lesson & more FAQs about the college basketball powerhouse

Gonzaga’s men’s basketball team is undefeated headed into the 2021 NCAA Tournament. Before last year’s big dance was canceled, the program had qualified for 21 consecutive tournaments going back to 1999. Gonzaga’s coach the past 22 years, Mark Few, passed the 600-win mark this season and the team has won at least 23 games in each of his seasons.

Nine times has Gonzaga ended up in the final top 10 of the AP rankings, reaching two Final Fours, five Elite Eights and 11 Sweet Sixteens. By every measure, Gonzaga’s two-decade run as a modern powerhouse puts the program among college basketball’s blue bloods.

Yet, despite all the success Gonzaga has had since the turn of the century, because of being located in the Pacific Northwest, playing in the West Coast Conference and not being named in relation to a state, many bracket-filling March Madness fans still don’t know much about the university. With Gonzaga set to have a No. 1 seed for the fourth time in the past eight NCAA Tournaments, here’s everything you should know about the school, including the most Googled Gonzaga questions:

Where is Gonzaga University?

(Google Maps)

Gonzaga is located in Spokane, Wash, a four-hour drive away from and about 280 miles east of Seattle, Washington’s largest city. The university is situated just west of the Idaho border and the campus lies alongside the Spokane River.

Gonzaga was founded in 1887 — a year after Sporting News was first published — as a private Catholic university by Italian Jesuit missionary named Joseph Cataldo. The school introduced its basketball program in 1907.

How to pronounce Gonzaga

Trying to say Gonzaga like it is spelled is a mistake. The “Gon” is more of “gun” and second syllable features a long-A sound. If you’re trying to pronounce the school’s name as an American, only “guhn·zaa·guh” is acceptable. For those with a British accent, it may come out more as “gon·zaa·guh.”

Thankfully, this video from the West Coast Conference during the 2017 Final Four — when Gonzaga was national runner-up to North Carolina — can help correct and train you. If that doesn’t help, you could just call Gonzaga “GU” and be right every time, too.

What is Gonzaga’s mascot?

If you said “Zags” you would be officially wrong, and if you said “Zigs” you would be ridiculous. You would get some credit for calling them the “Fighting Irish”, their Notre Dame-like nickname from the 1910s and 1920s. But for 100 years going since 1921, Gonzaga’s athletic teams are called the Bulldogs.

Zags have become acceptable as a shortened version over the years, from die-hard Gonzaga fans to national media. But as there is no such thing as a “Zag” and the navy, blue, white and red is represented by a menacing bulldog named Spike, give the ‘dogs their due. They’re the Gonzaga Bulldogs, not to be confused with the far-away Georgia Bulldogs, which is why “Zags” can be easier to use, on top of being one syllable vs. two.

What does Gonzaga mean?

Cataldo, who came to America from Sicily, decided to name the university after Aloysius Gonzaga, an young Italian Jesuit student who died at the age of 23 while caring for victims of an epidemic in 1591. Gonzaga was canonized as a saint in 1726. Going back farther, Gonzaga is the Spanish habitational name for the ruling family of Mantua.

Is Gonzaga a Mormon school?

This gets Googled often, perhaps because of Gonzaga being located 762 miles northwest of Provo, Utah, home to Brigham Young University, given BYU is the largest Mormon university in the world. But as we’ve just established (pay attention), Gonzaga is a Jesuit-founded Catholic school.

Has Gonzaga won a national championship in basketball?

Gonzaga got to the national championship game against North Carolina four years ago, but the Bulldogs lost a close one, 71-65. That’s also the only Final Four Gonzaga has reached under Few. Getting back to the national semifinals and finishing by cutting down the nets would be the ultimate next-level breakthrough, the only missing piece from the program’s recent impressive resume.

Who is Gonzaga’s basketball coach?

Mark Few, 58, was hired in 1999 to replace Dan Monson, for whom he was an assistant coach. Few started his coaching career at Gonzaga as a graduate assistant in 1989. He was a point guard during his prep and college years. The Oregon alumnus swept the national coaching awards in 2017 and has led Gonzaga to total domination in the West Coast Conference.

With another sweep of the WCC regular-season and tournament titles, Few’s coaching record is now 625-124, for a .834 winning percentage. That latter number is higher than late college basketball legends Adolph Rupp (.822) and John Wooden (.804) for best all-time.

Famous Gonzaga basketball alumni

Before Gonzaga’s college basketball heyday, it was the alma mater of NBA all-time assists and steals leader John Stockton (1984). Other than the former Utah Jazz superstar and original Olympic Dream Teamer, Gonzaga has been limited with All-Star honors.

Pacers power forward Domantas Sabonis is the best active NBA player from the program. He won this year’s All-Star Skills Challenge. Two more young power forwards, the Wizards’ Rui Hachimura and the Grizzlies’ Brandon Clarke, are rising stars. Another former Bulldogs big man, Kelly Olynyk, is a solid rotational center for the Heat. Josh Perkins, who plays professionally in Serbia, is Gonzaga’s all-time leader in games, minutes and assists.

After Stockton, the player who put Gonzaga on the map under Few was all-around college star Adam Morrison, the No. 3 overall pick by the Charlotte Bobcats in the 2006 NBA Draft. Unfortunately, some ineffectiveness early in his career coupled with a major knee injury derailed his chances of pro success. Ronny Turiaf, Dan Dickau and Austin Daye are among the other notable Gonzaga players who saw time in the NBA’s past.

How hard is it to get into Gonzaga and how much does it cost to go there?

If you don’t have a college basketball scholarship, you would need to be accomplished in several other areas to be admitted to Gonzaga. According to U.S News, Gonzaga has a 62 percent acceptance rate on applicants, making the coed enrollment rather competitive. It is ranked No. 80 among National Universities. As of the 2020-21 academic year, annual tuition at Gonzaga was just shy of $45,000 with room and board costing another $13,000.

Is Gonzaga a “party school?”

From all accounts, Gonzaga leans conservative because of its Catholic foundation. It lives up to being a religious-based private institution. One can still have clean, dry fun at Gonzaga, but if you prefer the old-school college experience, you would be best picking one of the massive state schools in the Pac-12, starting with Washington, Washington State, Oregon, Oregon State, Arizona and Arizona State. 

That is of course, when there’s no pandemic that requires social distancing, masking and other necessary safety measures to be in place and there’s more comfort level over gathering in a big enough group outside or inside with certain refreshments that would constitute a college “party.”

Does Gonzaga exist?

Surprisingly, despite all the answers provided on Gonzaga here and elsewhere and the Bulldogs’ tangible, consistent and brilliant presence in March Madness, this is still under the most common queries related to the university. Let’s hope we’ve done part to change that. Gonzaga is real and it’s spectacular at basketball, among other things.

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