The Times West Virginian

WVU Sports

September 23, 2011

HERTZEL COLUMN: Loud crowd could mean little to LSU

MORGANTOWN — It starts in a frenzy, fans milling around the grounds all day, ribs and burgers sizzling over the white-hot coals, cold beer washing down the very taste of life itself. The kids romp through the parking lots while the grownups act like kids themselves.

Before the sun begins to set, the West Virginia University football team arrives by bus from Lakeview Resort and proceeds to walk through a gauntlet of screaming, crazy fans on what is rapidly growing from a curiosity known as the “Manwalk” into a tradition.

The gates open not much later, and they begin to wander in from the parking lot parties, business executives and students alike, all of whom had to scramble for tickets for this LSU Saturday, as many as 7,000 of the WVU students being denied what really should be their right, entrance to the stadium.

They begin to chant and then to roar and the LSU Tigers take the field they boo loudly and hail epithets down upon the visitors from Cajun country.

Then, when their very own West Virginian who won “America’s Got Talent,” Landau Murphy, sings the national anthem, it all kicks into high gear.

And what is all this, you ask?

It is what commonly is known as the home-field advantage, something that often is debated but never debunked.

Studies have been done to prove that such a thing exists and the figures say it does — probably not as strongly as you may think — but there is a home-field advantage in every sport.

Go online and you will find this:

“Stats geeks in other sports aren’t as obsessive as (Major League Baseball)’s, but what research there is suggests Home Field Advantage is common all over. Perusing a comprehensive recent study (‘Long-term trends in home advantage in professional team sports in North America and England (1876-2003),’ Pollard and Pollard, 2005), I note as follows: (a) since 1900, notwithstanding some year-to-year swings, MLB home-field winning percentages have been remarkably stable at about .540; (b) the NFL HFA fluctuates a lot, no doubt because fewer games means more statistical noise, but home-field wins are usually in the 55 to 60 percent range; (c) NHL home-ice wins have declined from 60 percent in the ’70s to a pretty steady 55 percent since the mid-90s; (d) NBA home-court wins dropped from 65 percent in the mid-80s to 60 percent in recent years, still the highest of the U.S. sports studied; and (e) HFA shows up in UK sports too.”

It is no different at Milan Puskar Stadium. Since 2000, WVU has won 58 and lost 16 games at home for a .784 winning percentage while on the road (not counting bowl games) the Mountaineers are 34-23, .596.

And against ranked teams they are .500 at home and just .286 on the road.

Home-field advantage, therefore, cannot be denied. But why does it exist?

Don Nehlen spent a lifetime trying to figure that out, first as head coach at Bowling Green, then as a Hall of Fame coach of the Mountaineers for 20 years.

“The biggest thing is you don’t have to travel and break your routine,” Nehlen offered. “For road games, guys have to get on a bus, go to wherever they fly out of, get on a bus when they get to game site, get into a hotel they’re not used to, go find meeting rooms. Everything changes on the road compared to your normal routine.”

And coaches just hate breaking routine.

But it is more than just breaking routine. It is the atmosphere that is created within the stadium that creates energy and lifts attitudes so that the home team has a winning mind-set from the moment it takes the field.

This, however, is not a cure-all.

“If you are playing a team that doesn’t play in a big venue very often — like a Marshall — that’s probably a home-field advantage. But an LSU? Our 65,000 fans screaming at them is not going to bother them,” Nehlen said.

New coach Dana Holgorsen understands that this Saturday night game should be electric.

“As the first night game, everyone is fired up about it,” Holgorsen said. “I’ve been in a lot of night games that have been sold out with 60,000 to 110,000 people in there. The only thing we can worry about is making our place a good atmosphere.

“Everyone should show up, be loud and enjoy it. It needs to be a constant, too.”

He figures this is more to lift his Mountaineers than to deflate LSU.

“Their place is filled for every game. Regardless of who they play, that’s the way it is. That’s what we’re striving for here. It’s not a one-time or one-game thing. The mark of a good program and competitive program is filling the stadium every time you line up. It needs to happen all the time.”

LSU’s players are braced for what awaits them.

“I’ve been looking forward to this because I’ve been told Morgantown is a wonderful place to play,” coach Les Miles said. “Their game-day experience is a lot like an SEC game. They have a crowd that is into their team and makes a lot of noise. Our guys enjoy that type of environment. They tell me that College Gameday will be there and it is also another primetime nationally televised game. Our guys love that. It speaks to us in an environment like that. It is another challenge.

“The good news is that we’ve been on the road and understand it. We’re getting to a point where our road character is established, as is our personality.”

The WVU players certainly love it when it does happen.

“Night game, Morgantown gets electric at night. I expect the fans will come out and go crazy. We feed off that,” quarterback Geno Smith said.

So, is there a big home-field advantage at Milan Puskar Stadium?

The numbers say yes.

In 2007, Pitt said no.

Email Bob Hertzel at bhertzel@hotmail.com. Follow on Twitter @bhertzel.

1
Text Only
WVU Sports
  • Huggins signs junior college guard

    Coach Bob Huggins completed his 2014-15 West Virginia University recruiting class on Wednesday and deemed it a success after receiving a signed letter of intent from junior college guard Tarik Phillip.
    Phillip joins Jevon Carter of Maywood, Ill., and Daxter Miles of Baltimore’s Dunbar High and out of Notre Dame Prep in Massachusetts in the 2014-15 recruiting class.

    April 17, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: WVU gymnast hopes to stick her final landing

    The reaction, one suspects, was the same as most people who see either a picture of West Virginia University gymnast Hope Sloanhoffer or meet her for the first time in person — a quick double take, maybe even stumbling over the first few words of an introduction.

    April 17, 2014

  • FURFARI COLUMN: Comparing pay of coaches and professors

    Stringing together some odds and ends which may be of interest to you:
    • A beautiful lady came up to my table last Sunday at brunch in the Village of Heritage Point’s main dining room with a message.

    April 17, 2014

  • Bussie looks forward to WNBA

    On Tuesday, the weather turned cold, the wind blew and amongst the raindrops that fell a few snowflakes fluttered quietly to Earth.
    It was as if it was a celebration of Asya Bussie being drafted on Monday night by the Minnesota Lynx, champions of the WNBA, with the third selection of the second round, the 15th overall pick of the draft.

    April 16, 2014

  • WVU’s Harlee named Big 12 Scholar-Athlete

    The Big 12 Conference announced its Scholar-Athlete of the Year recipients for the 2014 winter sport season, and West Virginia University senior Jess Harlee earns the honor for women’s basketball.
    Harlee was selected as the award winner based on a vote of each respective sport’s head coaching group, with coaches not permitted to vote for their own student-athletes.

    April 16, 2014

  • Gyorko, Padres agree to extension

    Jedd Gyorko, who hasn’t hit much of anything with a .178 start on this season, hit the jackpot on Monday, signing a six-year contract extension with the San Diego Padres for $35 million with a one-year club option at $13 million.

    April 15, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN- Spring game showed defense has improved

    From Dana Holgorsen’s viewpoint, which was standing right behind the offense, West Virginia’s Gold-Blue Spring Game on Saturday was a rousing success for it showed very little of what the Mountaineers will be in this coming season, probably not even showcasing the man who will direct the offense in the quarterback position.

    April 15, 2014

  • WVU signs guard; Adrian arrested for DUI

    There was something good and something bad for West Virginia men’s basketball coach Bob Huggins this past weekend as Kansas junior college player Tarik Phillip committed to play for the Mountaineers but rising sophomore Nathan Adrian was charged with Under 21 DUI after he was stopped at 1:20 a.m. Sunday for an expired registration sticker.

    April 15, 2014

  • FURFARI COLUMN- Most plays good, some not so good in Gold-Blue scrimmage

    There appeared to be a fine mixture of plays, most good with some not so good, in last Saturday’s West Virginia University’s Gold-Blue football scrimmage.

    April 15, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN- Garrison still proving he can carry the ball

    The running back raves from the West Virginia coaching this spring have been directly mostly toward Wendell Smallwood, and rest assured he earned every one of them with his versatility, but it was a reborn running back who well may have taken the biggest jump up the depth chart.

    April 14, 2014

Featured Ads
WVU Sports Highlights
NDN Sports
House Ads
NCAA Breaking News
NCAA Photos