Where are all the USF basketball fans on a Tuesday night?’Watching American Idol? At a Lightning game? Studying in the Library?
In coach Jose Fernandez’s eyes, the fans were doing all of the above because they weren’t at USF’s upset of No. 15-ranked Louisville. The attendance of only 845 at the women’s basketball game, Fernandez found, to be a more important issue than his team’s standout performance.
It’s absolutely absurd that the best team, with the exception of the football squad, on campus can’t draw a decent crowd with a ranked opponent in town. The women’s team is 14-4 overall and 4-1 in conference play, yet it has as much support at home as some freshmen classes on campus.
This program has gone to consecutive appearances in the WNIT and captured its first NCAA Tournament bid last season. However, no one seems to realize the talent Fernandez has assembled, but more than 3,000 fans show up for a men’s team barely over .500.
“It just fathoms me that you have a basketball team … at 14-4 and (4-1) in the league and you got (expletive) 800 fans in the stands,” Fernandez said. “On a Tuesday night, what else is going on? Is there a football game, is there a hockey game? Oh, American Idol, that’s why we didn’t get fans. Maybe we should do American Idol tryouts at halftime.”
The interesting part about Fernandez’s comments after a big victory at home is that he picks this stage to voice his obvious displeasure. Fernandez has the right to complain about the attendance, and fans better begin to understand what kind of coach is running the women’s program.
USF is so focused on its precious football coach, Jim Leavitt, and keeping him at the school that it might lose the best women’s basketball coach in the program’s history. What is there at USF that will keep Fernandez from going to an ACC or SEC program if they come calling?
Doug Woolard and the rest of the Athletic Department better wake up and start listening to Fernandez before time runs out. The possibility of him leaving is getting stronger and stronger with every fan who doesn’t show up.
Not only are the fans not showing up to support the team, but the brand new million-dollar scoreboards also aren’t even working correctly. During the Louisville game, play had to be stopped four times due to shot clock or scoreboard malfunctions, which didn’t go unnoticed by Fernandez.
“We’ve got multi-million dollar scoreboards, and they don’t work. That’s another thing I don’t understand,” Fernandez said. “Oh well, I guess we have to just continue to roll on, and everybody will become a fan when we go to the NCAA Tournament.”
Just toss around these items of concern and they can ultimately lead to Fernandez looking for a position somewhere else.
With seniors Jessica Dickson, Nalini Miller, Rachael Sheats and Tristen Webb all leaving after this season, Fernandez has a perfect out along with the players he brought in. The lack of modern facilities hinders Fernandez on the recruiting trail, despite a top-20 recruiting class this season.
All of these factors point to Fernandez seriously thinking about his future with the program. USF better fix things quickly or there will be American Idol tryouts on campus for coaches.