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November 11, 2009

Home Sweet Home?

At a home game earlier this season, I overheard a Dawg fan comment on how Georgia had "no home field advantage at [Sanford Stadium], whatsoever."  This point of view is nothing new, cited by some Bulldog fans for years.

Supporters of this position will point to Georgia's sub-par record at home versus particular rivals and Mark Richt's tremendous success not at home but rather on opponents' home fields (until the two away losses this year with Georgia Tech at Grant Field remaining), among other reasons.

Some have said Georgia has a lackadaisical fan base and not enough tickets are sold to its students.  Thus, compared to other SEC stadiums, there is a lack of crowd noise generated in Sanford Stadium.  The noise that is made is difficult to resonate because of the stadium's location down in a hollow and the fact Sanford is not fully enclosed.  I'm sure there are other reasons to blame.

With two huge home games looming, I decided to take a statistical look at Georgia's home field advantage, or the lack thereof.

In my opinion, the best way to measure a team's home field advantage is the difference between its record at home compared to its record at other sites; the greater the difference in the team's home record, the better its home field advantage.

Pro-Football-Reference.com concurs, albeit for NFL teams, defining home field advantage, or HFA, as "the difference between the advantage of playing at home, and the disadvantage of playing on the road."  The site calculates HFA as the difference between victories at home compared to on the road.

For Georgia, as is the case with all college football teams, the number of games played will vary between different measurements, so I came up with the home field advantage percentage (HFA%)--the difference between the winning percentage at home and the winning percentage of away and neutral-site games combined.

The first table below lists all of Georgia's all-time records at home, away, and neutral sites.  The home record is sorted by the three different home stadiums: Herty Field (1892-1910), Sanford Field (1911-1929), and Sanford Stadium (1929-Present).  In addition, home, away, and neutral records are broken down for the Bulldogs' last four coaches: Coach Dooley (1964-1988), Goff (1989-1995), Donnan (1996-2000), and Richt (2001-Present).

The information presented is through last Saturday's game against Tennessee Tech.  In addition, I have included the four "unofficial" games I've posted about in the past--wins at Herty Field over Dahlonega in 1906 and the Atlanta AC in 1908 and 1909 and a loss at N.C. State in 1900--games not in UGA's official football records due to apparent error and oversight.

In Georgia football history, the Bulldogs have a winning percentage of 18.5% higher at home, or a HFA% of 18.5, than their away and neutral-site percentage combined.  Georgia's home field advantage was most evident when playing at Sanford Field from 1911 through the first two games of 1929 (50-11-4 at Sanford Field, only 42-33-8 at other sites during the same time).  Of the last four coaches, Goff had the highest HFA%; Richt has the lowest.

For the most part, the opinion Georgia has little home field advantage has only existed since the beginning of the Coach Richt regime.  With this in mind, I compared the Bulldogs' HFA% since Richt's arrival to Georgia with five other SEC teams, rivals Florida, Tennessee, Auburn, and Alabama, and LSU, since 2001:

Over the last 8+ seasons, of the six teams measured, the Bulldogs have the lowest HFA% by far; Auburn the highest.  Similar results are found when the HFA% is calculated for the same teams versus ranked opponents since 2001:

A team's record against the point spread, perhaps as good of a barometer as overall records or records against ranked opponents, is also applicable in figuring a team's home field advantage.  As I mentioned two weeks ago:
I consider point spreads in sports to have significant value beyond the gambling aspect. ... It can be interpreted that a team who is successful against the spread over a stretch of games is a team who likely overachieved over that particular time period. On the contrary, a team who usually doesn't cover the spread is usually disappointing and not meeting expectations.
The six teams' records and HFA% against the spread since 2001:

For the third and final assessment, Georgia's HFA% is once again the lowest of the six teams; Auburn has the first or second-highest HFA% for all three tables.

Based on these measurements, the Georgia football team since Coach Richt's arrival in 2001, has hardly a home field advantage compared to the Bulldog teams coached by Richt's three predecessors and in comparison to the five other upper-tier SEC squads.  Of course, these findings should not be confounding to Bulldog faithful; the notion Georgia has very little home field advantage or none "whatsoever," has been alleged for nearly a decade or more.

However, I would think it's never too late to finally secure a home field advantage; the Bulldogs can start by doing so this Saturday against Auburn.  They could very well need it.  

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