tampabay.com

Hey, coach, fan count is up

 As much as women's basketball coach Jose Fernandez has every right to complain about a meager Sun Dome crowd announced as 845 for Tuesday's upset of No. 15 Louisville, his team's home attendance is actually making significant progress.

By GREG AUMAN
Published January 18, 2007


TAMPA - As much as women's basketball coach Jose Fernandez has every right to complain about a meager Sun Dome crowd announced as 845 for Tuesday's upset of No. 15 Louisville, his team's home attendance is actually making significant progress.

Only twice in the past two years has his team drawn more than 845 fans for a weeknight game - last season against Big East champion Rutgers and last month to face a top-10 LSU program.

This year's Sun Dome average is 767 fans, and that figure doesn't include a strong showing of at least 1,500 to see Michigan State at the St. Pete Times Forum. This season's crowds are up 36 percent from two years ago, when the Bulls averaged 566 fans. After ranking 13th in the Big East in attendance last season, the Bulls rank eighth. You would be hard-pressed to find another USF program with that kind of improvement in fan support.

That said, the morning after Fernandez's tirade, fans visiting USF's official site, gousfbulls.com, were greeted by a full-page splash ad asking fans to show up in droves for USF's game against Connecticut - still a month away on Feb. 20. USF's sports information department said the timing was coincidental, noting that the ad had been scheduled more than a week earlier.

A prominent link, however, was added Wednesday to the women's basketball page, detailing promotions for this season's remaining home games. Fernandez may have less to complain about next time his team pulls off a big win at home.