Good seats weren't hard to come by for UF women's basketball games last season.
A disappointing 9-22 record, including only two conference wins, left the O?Connell Center sounding almost empty by February.
Gators coach Amanda Butler has been reaching out to the community in hopes of putting more fans in the seats this season.
BOur work in the community, our attempts at outreach, my availability to go and speak as much as I possibly can as well as my staff, hopefully we?ll see some of that in terms of the numbers that show up to our ball games,C Butler said.
Looking at attendance numbers from last season, it appears UF has nowhere to go but up.
In an arena that holds 12,000, the Gators averaged just 1,211 fans at home games, well under the Southeastern Conference average of 3,888.
UF?s mark even fared worse than the overall Division-I average of 1,586.
In fact, the SEC boasted five schools - Tennessee, Kentucky, LSU, Georgia and Arkansas - that ranked in the top 50 in home attendance for all of Division I.
While a high-volume crowd is expected for powerhouse Tennessee, somehow even Arkansas still managed to average more than 2,300 fans a game. The Razorbacks finished 10th in the league with an 18-13 record and won only three SEC games, just one more than the Gators.
UF?s early home schedule - 13 games before the end of the year - may have a big impact on whether those numbers will rise this season.
Butler hopes her outreach during the summer will get people to come out, but she knows it will take success on the court to keep them coming back.
BWhat we put out on the floor, the way that we approach each and every opportunity to play in front of our fans, I think is an opportunity for us to get them to come back,C Butler said. BEveryone that I?ve spoken to out in the community, I?ve told them if they?ll come, then they?ll want to come back, and they won?t regret taking the time to come see us and check us out.C
It hasn?t just been Butler trying to reach out to the community.
The entire team was among the UF athletes participating in the Climb for Cancer Foundation?s annual camp Saturday morning for children battling cancer.
The players participated in a number of sports with the children, including soccer, football, basketball and volleyball.
Senior guard Depree Bowden enjoyed the opportunity to help out those less fortunate.
BWe just really wanted to help them out playing the sports,C Bowden said. BIt was touching.C
Butler was impressed by her team?s ability to have the right attitude at 8 a.m. after a tough practice Friday night.
BIt?s something that they know is very important to me - how involved we get in the community,C Butler said. BIt?s certainly something I think they enjoy, as well, because they know the position they hold in our community, and the impact they can have on someone who?s struggling with something as serious as cancer or just a kid who?s looking for a more positive role model in their life.C