Half-empty: Students absent from Sun Dome

After a loss Saturday, USF’s most talented basketball player, Terrence Leather, spoke to the media — and just before he finished, he took a moment to apologize to the fans for the way his team played.

Which led me to wonder: Shouldn’t USF’s students apologize to the Bulls?

Over eight home games this season, the average announced attendance is 2,619, well below average for Division-I basketball. In 2004, the average national crowd was 5,154, and no top-25 team averaged less than 12,000 fans. And the Big East, which USF moves into next year, brings in just over 9,000 a game. Only Tulane has fewer fans at its home games this season.

It’s not just the men’s team. The USF women’s team is having one of its best seasons to date and has its sights set on making its first-ever NCAA tournament.

But an average of only 506 have come to see games this season — although even that number is inflated.

Against St. Louis on Friday, the announced crowd was 606 and it seemed the players, coaches, and band were added to that total. The average attendance at seven away games this season: 2,720.

Why doesn’t anyone want to come to watch these teams play?

Some say USF’s teams aren’t worth watching or that they’re not good enough to waste a couple of hours on.

The men aren’t terrible and the women are pretty good this year. The men’s season so far is highlighted by an 8-4 start, including a win in their conference opener. The team suffered a last-second loss to No. 22 Marquette on the road.

The women are off to a 14-6 record, including a nine-game home winning streak, even taking then-No. 8 Connecticut to overtime on the road.

It could be that the students’ lack of interest has to do with some of the fans that already go to the games.

Understandably, some students probably don’t want to be associated with those Bull fanatics that grace the front row of the student section. If you’ve been to a game this season, you know who I am talking about.

On many occasions, this group of hooligans has shown no class, including chants of “wife beater, wife beater” being directed at Jeremy Hunt at the Memphis game.

That display of disrespect had me hoping Memphis players would go Ron Artest on Bulls fans.

At least those guys show up to the women’s games.

Some people on campus are trying to rally support.

The Bulls Club has a new promotion called the “Sixth Bull.” You can tell who they are because of the mustard-colored shirts they wear with a large No. 6 on the front. It’s sad to say, but if the USF student section is the sixth man for the basketball team, the Bulls shouldn’t go to their bench very often.

If the students at this university really wanted a quality team, they would use their free tickets and fill up the stands.

After all, how many of the potential recruits watching Thursday’s game against Cincinnati are going to be psyched about playing in an empty Sun Dome next season?

The blame shouldn’t be heaped solely on the students, though. I know the USF Athletic Department has to take some responsibility. Calls to Associate Athletics Director Tom Veit and Associate Athletic Director for Development Vicki Mitchell, who is also with the Bulls Club, were not returned Monday.

Who can blame them? They have a lot of work to do.