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Sororities help bolster Cameron attendance

In an effort to draw more attention to the women's basketball team, the Panhellenic Association has taken part in an effort to garner support by bringing its member sororities out to Cameron Indoor Stadium.

For each of the last four home conference games, two of the 10 Panhel sororities have been placed in charge of promoting the event. Katie Jandl, the president of the Panhel Association, said the girls were asked to wear shirts made for the cause, attend the game and encourage other students to do the same.

During the games, the sororities have competed against each other in halftime contests, which have included a mini-tricycle race and musical chairs. The initiative culminates tonight when Duke plays its final home game of the season against Virginia Tech.

"We're always trying to find ways to support other women's organizations on campus that we feel lack in support," Jandl said. "And we felt like it was beneficial to increase the women's basketball support."

Even though student attendance is not tracked, the overall attendance figures at women's basketball games have increased this season after a drop last year. In 2003-2004, the Blue Devils enjoyed the program's highest average attendance with 6,237 fans per contest, but that number plummeted to 4,966 last year. This season, however, the attendance is back up to 6,083 per game, and Cameron has been sold out for games against Tennessee and North Carolina.

"I've seen the student section filled a lot more than it has been in the past," senior guard Monique Currie said. "It's nice to see students come out and check us out sometimes. It's an advantage for us. People always talk about how tough it is to come in here to Cameron and play against our fans. Our fans give us a lot of extra energy and a lot of extra support that help us play better on the court."

The initiative began when Bart Smith, the director of promotions for the athletic department, said he was looking for ways to bolster home attendance and draw more fans to games. His department was already promoting the team by selling ticket bundles to businesses outside of Duke, like the Coca-Cola Company. The firms distributed the tickets to employees or returned the extra tickets to the athletic department, which in turn gave them to charitable organizations around Durham.

The Inferno, the official student club of Duke Athletics and the Iron Dukes, and Lauren Troyer, the head line monitor, have each encouraged student attendance at women's games as well. But Smith said he was still searching for ways to increase undergraduate attendance even further.

He sat down with Kristina Johnson, the Dean of the Pratt School of Engineering and an avid women's basketball fan, who suggested the Panhel women's initiative.

When Johnson raised the idea in front of Panhel members as a means of supporting the women's basketball team, the idea was accepted.

Jandl said the participating sororities plan on continuing this program in the future.

"I think this is the start of an increased support of women's basketball," Jandl said. "It shows people how important and fun the games can be, and how good it can be to support the women's team."

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