Stay at Ray Jay

Everyone, count your blessings. At least the Bulls have a place to call home.

Granted, there aren’t many teams that don’t have a home – except for the poor and unfortunate souls formerly at Tulane – but all teams have a stadium.

And the Bulls aren’t the only ones who have to travel to get home.

Pittsburgh travels seven miles to Heinz Field, the home of the Steelers.

Miami travels five miles to the Orange Bowl, which just happens to be older than Larry Coker’s fashion sense.

The Bulls probably have the longest bus ride to Raymond James Stadium: a 12-mile trek not only up the congested piece of asphalt that is Fletcher Avenue, but also traveling the monstrosity that is Interstate 275.

Sure, it’s not easy, and it would be even easier to cop out and say, “Well, Raymond James is the best the Bulls got.”

But the bottom line: It is the best the Bulls have, because not only is an on-campus stadium not feasible in the near future for USF, it’s just not going to happen.

First off, say it did get approved. Where, per say, should the University build this magnificent palace? The rundown area where University Mall used to prosper? USF’s not interested in buying it and has stated so numerous times.

Oh yeah, they could tear down The Claw – where a round of golf is too expensive and the course has looked ragged since Hurricane Frances – and build it there.


USF is eager to get rid of that piece of land, and if they build it on top of The Claw, what would happen to Fletcher?

I’ll tell you what: Know what Interstate 4 is like on a Friday afternoon? Imagine creeping along at five inches an hour. Imagine more cars on the road than in the Disney World parking lot. Imagine traffic accidents and hit-and-runs. Imagine Grand Theft Auto: The Commuter School District. That will be game day in Temple Terrace.

RJS has been a great home for the Bulls since 1998, though it’s not perfect.

The Glazers don’t share the “New Sombrero” as much with the Bulls as the Rooneys – the family behind the Steelers – do with the Panthers. Ironically, both stadiums can house 65,000 fans, and both are adorned primarily with the colors of their NFL counterparts – but the Panthers probably still feel more at home.

But it’s what the Bulls use to pull home the recruits, and it works. Players such as Carlton Hill and Andre Hall wanted to play in RJS instead of the Orange Bowl or Texas A&M’s Kyle Field.

The city of Tampa coughed up $168.5 million, and the Bulls and Bucs are putting it to good use. This wise investment all the citizens voted for is paying dividends by hosting another Super Bowl in 2009 after having put on a better show in 2001 than Jacksonville did earlier this year.

What fans don’t realize is how good they have it to have these exalted facilities, which even NFL crews treat like a newborn.

If you were one of the few who took the ride down to the Orange Bowl, then you know how big of a dump it was, rain aside.

Besides, the Bulls have shown signs of promise this year. Their average attendance has risen to an all-time high of 40,616 per game in a stadium that gets pretty loud – a stadium that doesn’t have bleachers for seats, but chairs with armrests. And room to walk around. And easy access.

Consider yourselves lucky.