Home Field Disadvantage

The Monmouth University football field. Photo courtesy of: MU Athletics

The success of the 2011 Monmouth University Football season may be over shadowed by the lack of success the Hawks have had playing in front of their home crowd.  This year the Hawks are undefeated on the road winning twice in Pennsylvania, twice in Connecticut, and also getting a win in Rhode Island.  The team currently has a 5-5 record.  All of their losses were suffered at Kessler Field.
Earlier in the season they looked to compete for the conference title.  In the second week of the season the Hawks traveled to Villanova University and beat the 2009 National Champs.  The week after they got their first conference win but would go on to lose three conference games all held at Monmouth.
A loss this week could leave them with a 500 winning percentage in the NEC and fourth place at best.  One more game decides whether they end up with a winning record, or a losing record going defeated at home.  Now would be the perfect time for a win on Kessler Field as Wagner makes their way here on Saturday, November 19.
What ever happened to home field advantage? A disadvantage is defined as an unfavorable circumstance or condition that reduces the chances of success or effectiveness.  When this season ends we can look back and attribute a number of different circumstances or conditions to why we could not find victory at home.
Road games are supposed to be hard on the away team.  The visitors leave their campus early Friday morning and sit through a long bus ride into unfamiliar territory.  They have to stay over night in a hotel and are greeted by unwelcoming fans of the opposing team.  A line is drawn between the two schools as they take the field of battle.
At Monmouth we show great sportsmanship, which brings me to the first unfavorable circumstance: the bleachers.  We share seats with the fans of the team on the other side of the field.  We built extra seating in the back of the west end zone. Fans of the visiting team could be designated to sit there. If we really want to support our guys we need to separate the stands with home and away bleachers.  We have the right to, its our field.  When the Hawks look to our sideline all they should see is a packed house of blue and white.
This brings me to my second unfavorable circumstance: game time. The first home opener we’ve had in years, Homecoming, and Parent’s Weekend were all losses in 2011.  We faced tough opponents, battled the elements and let games we were in slip away.  But how many people were there to see it? How many of those people were students?  All of our games have a 12pm or 1pm start time.  Students that live on campus and can walk to the stadium don’t even make it to those.  We have class before that time all week, when the weekend comes they like to sleep in.
My last and most unfortunate circumstance could solve the attendance problem: lights. We are a part of the few Division 1 Football schools left without lights, therefore we cannot host night games. Every surrounding high school in our county has lights on their football field but the university doesn’t.  With the addition of lights to Kessler Field, we would have higher attendance and more revenue brought into the school through ticket sales.
On September 10th the University of Michigan played Notre Dame under the lights for the first time ever in Ann Arbor at Michigan Stadium.  They promoted the game for weeks at eighty-four year old “The Big House” and had a record setting turn out of 114,000 people.  Michigan was down 24-7 going into the forth quarter.  With the home crowd behind them and the excitement of a prime time atmosphere, the Wolverine’s scored 28 points to win the game 35-31 scoring in the finals two seconds.
On a smaller scale, that could be Monmouth.  This year was the first year the MU Soccer teams played under the lights on the Norwood side of campus.  It created a unique atmosphere on the Great Lawn and lead to the men’s team hosting an NCAA tournament game here the night of November 17.
We have a great facility in the MAC where the football team enjoys a brand new locker room now.  This year was the first year the Hawks played in all blue uniforms which raised team moral. There’s also a weekly radio show, Twitter account, Facebook page, Hawk Vision interviews and highlights on the Internet that they’d never had before.
To continue to build on those things for next year we have to do what is necessary to solidify our home field advantage.  The Hawks have a lot of new players and young talent returning for 2012. For Coach Callahan’s 20th season as Monmouth University’s only head football coach, maybe we will see some changes for the better at Kessler Field.