Florida holding open practice for students


Following the football example last August, Florida has announced it will hold an open practice for students from 4:30-6 p.m. Tuesday at the UF practice facility.

The Gators did away with Midnight Madness in 2006. A year later, Florida held an open intra-squad scrimmage at the O’Connell Center. But for the most part, Florida basketball fans haven’t been able to get a glimpse of their team practicing before the exhibition opener.

Florida’s attendance woes in men’s basketball have been well-documented. Despite winning the Southeastern Conference regular season title last year, Florida ranked fifth in the league in average paid attendance, behind Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas and Alabama.

Last season, in big non-conference matchups against Wisconsin and Marquette, Florida failed to get more than 6,500 in the arena based on turnstile counts, which takes into account fans in the building.

But Florida had a record attendance among students this past season. Florida is hopeful the event will help capitalize on the strong student turnout to fill the 12,000-seat O’Connell Center more consistently.

“We’ve tried to get our student involved,” Florida coach Billy Donovan said. “We’ve done it last year. We’ve done it almost every year that I’ve been here. I just think our student section, in home games, has always been really, really good …

“It means a lot. It means a lot to our program. It means a lot to the environment in our arena. I think it’s just kind of a way to make them feel included and apart and appreciated for them waiting in line, going to games, being out there and supporting our team.”