Nebraska and Home Field Advantage

An interesting take on the concept of home field advantage at The Straight Dope of all places. The Straight Dope is a question and answer site run by Psuedonymous columnist Cecil Adams. If you have a question about just about anything, chances are The Straight Dope have attempted an answer.

Regarding home field advantage (HFA), The Straight Dope says:

What explains HFA? Several possibilities are often cited, including familiarity with home turf, no travel stress, and what football fans call “the 12th man,” the home crowd. But establishing what’s most important isn’t easy. Take familiarity — one study of 7 baseball, 17 basketball, and 13 hockey teams that moved to new stadiums (without changing cities) between October 1987 and April 2001 showed a significant reduction in HFA in the season following the move. However, other studies purport to show that MLB teams do better in a new stadium. One clear-cut case of HFA arising from venue familiarity is the Colorado Rockies, who consistently display the largest differential between home and away records of any MLB team. All agree that’s because only the Rockies are acclimated to high-altitude Coors Field.

Crowd effects are easier to demonstrate, at least in some sports. A study of more than 5,000 English soccer matches found that teams scored an average of 1.5 goals at home vs only 1.1 on the road, with the difference growing by 0.1 goals per 10,000 spectators. The researchers attribute this to cowed refs’ giving the visitors more penalties. Schwartz and Barsky thought crowd effects explained why HFA for baseball and football was lower than for hockey (in the 70s anyway) and basketball — the latter two sports are invariably played indoors, where the noise is more intense. Travel stress is probably a minor factor, since HFA persists even among teams that are geographically close.

Whatever the reason, a home field advantage certainly exists in Lincoln.

  • Nebraska was 7-1 at home in 2006 and has won at least six home games in 17 of the past 19 seasons.
  • Nebraska is 116-11 at home in the last 18 seasons (since 1989), including a pair of losses against teams that went on to win the national championship–Colorado in 1990 and Washington in 1991.
  • Since 1986, only seven different schools have left Memorial Stadium with a victory (Colorado, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Southern Miss., Texas, Texas Tech, Washington).
  • During Nebraska’s run of success at home in the past 25 years, Nebraska has had three home winning streaks of 20 or more games.
  • Nebraska had a school-record 47-game home winning streak from 1991 to 1998, a 26-game home streak from 1998 to 2002 and a 21-game win streak in the early 1980s.
  • Nebraska has not been shut out at home since a 12-0 loss to Kansas State in 1968 (245 games), and has posted 40 unbeaten and untied home seasons.
  • All-time Nebraska is 481-129-20 (.779, 630 games, 117 years) in Lincoln.
  • The Huskers are 356-106-13 (.763, 475 games, 84 years) in Memorial Stadium (since 1923).
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