The Future of the Home Field Advantage Debate – Don’t Erode the Tradition of College Football

Read the debate intro, Bleacher Fan, and Loyal Homer’s arguments about the value of moving college football games from a home field to a neutral site.



Without tradition, college football would be radically different. The dew-soaked grass would not smell the same in the first week of September. The echoes of a fight song would not ring in our ears. The debates about the BCS would not keep our interest piqued year round. Tradition is a vital component to college football, the not-so-secret ingredient that makes the strange mixture of clashing colors and sounds and passion so intoxicating when the leaves begin turning.

If it is impossible to remove tradition from college football, how can such a traditional element like the home game become jeopardized in the favor of making some extra bucks? When did money begin to trump tradition?

Bleacher Fan correctly, and clinically, details all of the financial reasons why an athletic department makes the decision to move a home game to a neutral site. It is a concise, well-argued side of the debate.

Loyal Homer makes some excellent points, too. Neutralizing the home field advantage is a dangerous idea. Sure, it is easy for smaller schools to accept a neutral site game because they need more money to grow he program. It is easy for larger schools to accept a neutral site game because they can dominate the stands. The problem is that, year after year as smaller schools agree to these games in lieu of a home game, they are yielding to the erosion of tradition. They are raking in the cash, but building no tradition. The picture of a “successful” college football program will radically change because the key indicator of success will be finances, not tradition. If that transition becomes more real every year, the college football we all know and love will disappear.

To answer Bleacher Fan’s query about whether or not Rice needs a football tradition – Rice does need a football tradition. The powerhouse that is Texas football was not built over night. Nor was it built overnight in Florida, or Oklahoma, or Ohio State (though it sure seems like it was torn down overnight in Ann Arbor). I think it is difficult for Bleacher Fan to argue, on one hand, that Rice can play a game in Moscow and it will not make a difference, but also argue on the other hand that they have every right to sell all of their tens of thousands of allotted tickets. If no one cares where the game is played, how can they possibly have a shot at filling the seats with their loyal homers?

College football, if they are insistent on finding larger venues to rake in more cash, should follow the lead of the ACC and SEC with their Chick-fil-A College Kickoff. The 2009 version of the game features Virginia Tech of the ACC taking on Alabama on September 5 at the Georgia Dome – a neutral site. I have no issue with this setup because it is clearly taking a page from college basketball with their unending series of pre-season tournaments. A branded, neutral experience where the expectations are originally set as a neutral game between two regional teams with fans that travel? That is a formula for success, something where the organizers, the teams, and the fans all win. How common is that?

But, preserving home field, on the whole, matters most. As the college football season length has expanded the last couple of years, it has become possible to change the first game of the season into a College Kickoff type game. The revenues created are a bonus because five years ago athletic departments were not relying on them. But each college football team in the country should play at least six home games, if possible, in a 12 game year. Why? I will answer that question with a series of rhetorical questions that is sure to drive Bleacher Fan nuts:

  • Should Penn State forgo a home White Out for any reason?
  • Should Tennessee miss out of 100,000 people screaming Rocky Top six times a year for anything?
  • Should Notre Dame skip the chance to touch the “Play Like A Winner Today” sign for any reason?
  • Should Clemson give up running down the hill and touching Howard’s Rock for any reason?
  • Should Texas A&M skip yell practice with the 12th man for any reason?
  • Should Auburn skip the Tiger Walk for any reason?
  • Should Ole Miss fans not crowd The Grove on home game Saturdays for any reason?
  • Should Nebraska fans miss out on The Tunnel Walk?

None of those traditions – and those only scratch the surface of what college football tradition is about – were built over decades with passion and loyalty. A few years of teams increasing the number of neutral site games is enough to destroy them all.

Tradition matters. Loyal Homer wins because college football is on a slippery slope right now. A handful of neutral site “pre-season tournament classic” type games are one thing. As smaller schools start giving up their right to a home game simply to make extra bucks at the expense of tradition, college football as we know it is forever changed. A football league that constantly fights for the extra already exists in the form of the NFL. We do not need two of those.

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