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Bulls thriving in smaller home environment

Published: Thursday, January 26, 2012

Updated: Thursday, January 26, 2012 02:01


While raw attendance numbers are down this season for the USF women's basketball team, the atmosphere is up in a major way.

With the Sun Dome unavailable while it receives an expensive facelift, the Bulls are playing their home games this season in the upper gymnasium of the Campus Recreation Center (CRC), a cozy home court that has provided a strong advantage so far.

Through eight home games this season, USF is averaging 635 fans, down overall from the 1,034 it averaged a

year ago in the much larger Sun Dome.

Proportionally, though, the CRC is much fuller. With a seating capacity of 1,000, the Bulls are drawing strong crowds.

While Wednesday night's crowd of 585 would have felt almost non-existent in the Sun Dome, it was more than enough in the limited space of the CRC.

"We've named it the Campus Recreation Arena and Convocation Center,"  coach Jose Fernandez said, poking fun at the meager nature of the court. "It's definitely a smaller, cozier arena."

With the band blaring and fans cheering, the noise at floor level can be overwhelming. Fernandez compared the sound to the famed Allen Fieldhouse at the University of Kansas, where the Bulls won the 2009 WNIT. Allen Fieldhouse seats 16,300. The CRC has six rows of seating on either side of the floor.

"I've got to take pills after the games from the headaches," Fernandez said. "Your ears ring, your head hurts. It gets so loud in there that you can't ever hear yourself think. For coaches (and) officials, it's tough."

The Bulls have amassed a 6-2 home record this year, with losses to Georgetown and No. 7 Rutgers the only

blemishes. The game against Rutgers packed 1,022 fans into the arena, with the bleachers stuffed and the corners completely full as a standing-room-only overflow option.

Originally, the Bulls were only expected to play non-conference games on campus before moving to the Bob Martinez Sports Center at the University of Tampa for Big East games. That plan was scrapped because of the

success and environment USF was enjoying at home.

"Playing our non-conference games here worked out real well," Barry Clements, USF senior associate director of Athletics/Sports and Program Services, said. "We found out that it was a great environment and we were

able to take it and develop it with our event management staff and fix it up to be really special with our team."

Fernandez didn't hesitate to say the Bulls will be moving back to their permanent home next season when the Sun Dome is again available.

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