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Bulls thriving in smaller home environment

While raw attendancenumbers are down this seasonfor the USF women’sbasketball team, theatmosphere is up in amajor way.

With the Sun Domeunavailable while it receives an expensive facelift, the Bulls are playing their home games this season in theupper gymnasium of theCampus Recreation Center (CRC), a cozy home court that has provided a strongadvantage so far.

Through eight home games this season, USF is averaging635 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 aseating 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 spaceof the CRC.

“We’ve named it theCampus Recreation Arena and Convocation Center,” coach Jose Fernandez said, poking fun at the meagernature of the court. “It’sdefinitely a smaller, cozierarena.”

With the band blaringand fans cheering, the noise at floor level canbe overwhelming. Fernandezcompared the sound to thefamed Allen Fieldhouse at theUniversity of Kansas, where the Bulls won the 2009 WNIT. Allen Fieldhouse seats 16,300. The CRC has six rows ofseating on either side ofthe floor.

“I’ve got to take pillsafter the games from theheadaches,” Fernandez said. “Your ears ring, your head hurts. It gets so loud in there that you can’t ever hearyourself think. For coaches (and) officials, it’s tough.”

The Bulls have amassed a 6-2 home record this year, with losses to Georgetown andNo. 7 Rutgers the only

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

Originally, the Bulls were only expected to playnon-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-conferencegames here worked out real well,” Barry Clements, USF senior associate director of Athletics/Sports and ProgramServices, said. “We found out that it was a greatenvironment 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.