By Brad Meyer | Published 08/08/2020 | USF Basketball
Coming up this November is a date of significant importance, the opening of the Yuengling Center, nee Sun Dome.
The Sun Dome was officially opened on November 29, 1980. The first event to be held there was a basketball game against Florida A&M in which the Bulls dropped a heart breaking 65-63 season opener. The grand opening would occur less than one week later when the Bulls hosted the Duke Blue Devils, losing 83-72.
The Bulls went 18-11 and amassed 15 straight wins in the Sun Dome following the loss to the Blue Devils, making it a 15-2 regular season record under the inflated roof. The Bulls' final game in the Dome that season was against the Connecticut Huskies in a first round NIT game. The Bulls lost 65-55, ending with a 15-3 record in their new home.
Prior to the construction of the Sun Dome, the Bulls played games across the area, including Curtis Hixon Hall, the Bayfront Center, the Lakeland Civic Center and the Fairgrounds.
The 1980-81 squad featured many fan favorites including Tony Grier, Vince Reynolds, Willie Redden and Rob Rutledge. Grier led the group in scoring at 19.2 points per game. Each of these players averaged double figures with Reynolds at 13.7, Redden at 11.0 and Rutledge 10.7. The team was coached by Lee Rose in his first of six seasons at the helm of South Florida Basketball. It was an exciting time for South Florida Basketball.
Many great moments occurred in those Sun Dome early years including the short lived Florida Four tournaments. Beginning in 1981, the Florida Four was a two day tournament between South Florida, Florida, Florida State and Jacksonville. In the inaugural Florida Four, the Bulls defeated the Gators (58-56) on Friday and the Seminoles (82-67) on Saturday. Both wins came at the Sun Dome.
A year later the Bulls would again defeat the Seminoles (90-77) to start the Florida Four on Friday, then turn around and beat the Gators (77-73) on Saturday at the Sun Dome's slightly more attractive twin in Gainesville. The Florida Four experience ended with USF undefeated.
The Sun Dome would later be referred to as the USF Sun Dome and then ultimately be renamed the Yuengling Center in 2018 after agreeing to a 10 year deal with D.G. Yuengling & Son, Inc. for the naming rights.
Back to Tony Grier, a three year player from Port Chester, NY and the 87th overall pick in the 1982 NBA draft (Spurs). He scored his way onto the USF 1,000 point list with 1,465 points in his career (7th all time). Although he departed in 1982, USF never left Tony's heart. He returned in 1984 to complete his USF degree.
Grier captured that grand era of South Florida Basketball and its incredible change beginning with an on campus arena, a Final Four experienced coach and a crazy student section that would come to be known as the Rose Garden.
He is re-releasing his book A Raging Bull: Chasing the Big Time - the only comprehensive look at USF Basketball from the 1970s until date of original publishing (2007). Grier tells a fantastic story about his life, the Sun Dome, the boosters, the environment and the excitement of USF Basketball.
Highly recommended, A Raging Bull, is in second release in 2020 to coincide with the 40th season in the Yuengling Center. You can grab a copy now for just $20 with free shipping.
Visit ARagingBull.com for more information and to order your copy.
Tony is a member of The Bulls Pen and will be aware of this posting should there be any questions for him.