Some teams wish they could just click their heels and say there is no place like home.
While L. Frank Baum coined the phrase in his 1900 literary masterpiece, “The Wizard of Oz”, it holds true in the sports world as well. Baseball, basketball, football and even hockey teams alike love more than ever to play in front of their home fans.
One of the biggest examples is the University of Kentucky’s men’s basketball team. Before its loss against Baylor University Saturday, the Wildcats won 54 straight games on their home floor.
It could be because Kentucky has state of the art facilities, including a $15 million upgrade that makes Rupp Arena one of the biggest venues for college basketball in the country, but money can only go so far.
Teams are successful at home because they have a loyal fan base. Sacramento residents can remember when the Kings were a successful NBA franchise and Sleep Train Pavilion was Arco Arena, one of the hardest venues to play in. Over 17,000 screaming Sacramentans were on their feet with cowbells in hand and people could barely hear themselves think.
Sadly, the loyalty of the fans factors into the success of a team. Two seasons ago, the Kings finished with the worst home record in the NBA, winning 37 percent of their games. Since then, they have improved immensely with a 4-6 record this season, but there is no reason a team should have a poor record playing in the same arena they have played in every year. That losing season drove fans to cheer for other teams, and despite a drastic improvement in the Kings’ performance, the fans just haven’t returned.
At least one program likes playing at home. Sacramento State athletics excels when playing in front of its fans. This season, football finished with a record of 3-2, basketball right now is 3-1, and last season baseball finished 18-12.
Winning at home not only helps with an overall record, but gets fans excited to come out and support the team. Even in a small gymnasium, 1,000 screaming fans can sound like Duke University’s Cameron Indoor Stadium at its fullest.
Duke University is known to have one of the most successful college basketball programs in the nation. While its arena is not the biggest, its student section is wildly supportive, which makes it difficult for opposing teams to come out victorious.
Sac State should try to adopt this philosophy. During the basketball game against UC Davis, the tiny Nest was crowded and fans got loud, but the atmosphere was nowhere near what it could have been.
Sac State students should come out in force, watch some good college basketball and make an impact on this year’s team. Look what it has done for other schools. All you need to do is make some noise and the Hornets home gym will never be the same again.
Ryan Kuhn can be reached on Twitter @rskuhn.