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Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

August 17, 2017   |   Ithaca, NY

ColumnsBend it like Beck

Bend it like Beck: Does home-field advantage exist?

One of the many true myths in team sports is the theory of home-field advantage. There could be an actual benefit to having the fans cheering against the competitors and criticizing the referees. Playing in a familiar place can also be seen as an advantage for the home team. It’s an interesting question to pose, especially in Division III athletics.

With the Blue and Gold’s gearing up to host three Empire 8 playoffs May 4–8 for men’s lacrosse, women’s lacrosse and softball, I decided to see whether having contests on South Hill will be the deciding factor this weekend.

Let’s take a look at each spring team’s record, home versus away.

The men’s lacrosse team owns a perfect 7–0 record in Higgins Stadium and has just one loss on the road. On the other hand, the women’s lacrosse team has a 6–1 record at home while it is just 4–3 away from Higgins.

The softball squad holds a 15–1 record at Kostrinsky Field, while being 6–2 away and 8–4 on neutral grounds. Baseball maintains a 6–2 record at Freeman Field and just 11–11 away, including its six games over spring break.

From the looks of it, the Bombers seem to favor home-field advantage slightly more than playing on the road. So is it true that Ithaca College Athletics teams benefit more from playing on their own turf? Not necessarily.

Unlike most sports, in baseball and softball, home-field advantage holds true. Baseball and softball fields tend to have more flexibility because of their ability to be structured in any way the school wants.

Freeman Field’s dimensions are 334 feet down the line in left field, 400 in straightaway center field and 328 in right field. Despite this, the ballpark, in comparison to those at other Empire 8 schools, is much of the same, like Dugan Yard of St. John Fisher College and the Utica College Baseball Field.

It seems that there is not much discrepancy between Division III fields.

One of the most compelling arguments for this theory comes from a research paper by Thomas Dohmen about Germany’s Bundesliga, the country’s top soccer league.

In his research, Dohmen found in stadiums that contain a running track surrounding the field, such as Butterfield Stadium, there is a smaller home-field advantage. However, in stadiums without a track, the home-field advantage was larger because there is a more intense social atmosphere.

At the end of the day, there is nothing better than having your relatives, friends and peers scream and cheer your name as an athlete. It adds to the excitement as a fan, and it’s always enjoyable to watch your team play at home in your eyes rather than on the road through a computer screen.

At a small private school like the college, it seems as though the crowd support could be a factor come Empire 8 playoffs time. So fans attending the games this weekend should keep this in mind. Hopefully, they know who they are supposed to be shouting at.

Jonathan Beck can be reached at jbeck3@ithaca.edu or via Twitter: @jonbeck365