One of the biggest misnomers in sports is the impact playing as the home team has on the results. Great teams win regardless of environment, but fans play their part in creating a memorable environment when the story of the game is told. For the Ohio State Buckeyes, their home field at Ohio Stadium enters into its 100th season, and the history in the Horseshoe speaks for itself with stories of endless feats.
Home field advantage has historically been overvalued by fans, and this has shown in some of the more well known “themed” games, like Penn State’s White Out game. No one who has ever played in or attended a “White Out” game has ever come away from the experience unimpressed, but it hasn’t really impacted on-field results. Teams have tried to create their own versions with a “Black Out” (Ohio State), or “Maize Out” (Michigan), and tons of others across the country. This isn’t to say Penn State invented this type of environment, but this is something that has truly become part of the program’s identity.
This rant leads back to the proud fans of Ohio State, the best damn fans in the land. Over the last few years — 2020 not included — the game day atmosphere has progressively fallen off. The excuses will roll in about ticket prices, start times, and unworthy out of conference opponents, but that’s all they are: excuses. Ohio State fans are loud every where they go except for when they show up in the Shoe, until the fourth quarter that is. Now this opinion might be an unpopular opinion, but this article is here to tell you that this needs to be taken seriously by the fans of Ohio State.
Home field advantage at Ohio State needs to become just that once again :home field advantage. The fans currently don’t get involved until at least the second quarter, and sometimes in blow outs they might as well have never shown up. This is unacceptable fan behavior, and there are reasons that need to be overcome to make sure that Ohio State represents the Shoe well in the stadium’s centennial year.
Ohio State’s record in marquee home match ups
The first place to start with the overrated home field advantage is looking at the Buckeyes’ record in marquee matchups at home. In rivalries and in conference play, Ohio State has been strong, with their main rival Michigan not being able to win in Columbus since the year 2000, and with Penn State not being able to win in Columbus since 2011. Looking at that as the season progresses and with the Buckeyes being competitive, the home field advantage improves. Having history and a reason to get up for the game does play a role, but true home field advantage comes when a team who hasn’t experienced the environment folds to the pressure.
Ohio State has not won a helmet game at home since 2010 against Miami (who was bad) and before that you’d have to go back to 2003 to see the Buckeyes win another. In that time frame, the Buckeyes have losses to Texas, USC, Virginia Tech, Oklahoma, and Oregon capping those losses off last season. This is not the results needed to build a strong reputation of having home field advantage. Beating up on Big Ten teams is one aspect, but the national reputation is just as important, meaning the fans in the stands need to do their part.
Attendance Numbers and Cost
The number of student tickets were on the decline pre-pandemic dropping from 28,392 tickets in 2018 to 21,716 in 2019, according to an article by The Lantern. The number was the lowest since 2011, and that can be largely in part due to the lack of a major out of conference opponent as well as Michigan being on the road.
This number bounced back in 2021 following the pandemic, with the addition of 53,607 general public tickets. That shows that people are still willing to pay to attend these games. The tickets could be more affordable, but overall the cost of major out of conference games has always been a small fortune, which could be a deterrence. That makes it even more important for fans to take their part seriously.
When coaches like George O’Leary talk about how the stadium doesn’t compare to that of Wisconsin or Iowa, and that Ohio Stadium actually is not very loud, that should be taken as a personal challenge. For the best damn fans in the land, this shows that the Shoe’s home field advantage is non existent once you get past the pure magnitude of the size of the stadium.
Big Noon Kick Off
The No. 1 excuse is the Big Noon Kick Off, which was started by Fox in 2019 to give the network their exclusive big game window. In those first three seasons, Ohio State has hosted the Big Noon Kickoff crew a total of five times. The noon starts for marquee match ups definitely takes away for the time period of preparation for the game. The tailgates and Blocks get started early, the fans are shuffling in at the start of game time rather than during pre-game. This also takes away from the willingness of fans to attend the Skull Session, which is a significant part of game day tradition at Ohio State.
With all that being laid out, these are all excuses that have played into an attitude of ungratefulness. Not getting up and excited for Rutgers is one thing, but thinking back to the Oregon game, the energy was not where it needed to be. According to an Eleven Warriors article by Dan Hope, with a week out from the match up against Oregon, there were still 10,000 tickets available for purchase.
This is unthinkable with one of the more interesting opponents on Ohio State’s schedule in recent memory. After the TCU series was moved to one neutral site game, the Oregon game was the first truly marquee match up in a while. People should have been ready to explode, and even with the challenging result, the Buckeyes could have heard more from the stands.
Need more Sloopy
The best stadiums rely on one distinct sound, and the most distinct sound in college football is the sound of the Best Damn Band in the Land. The stadium PA announcers mix in music, and to me that takes away from one of the more electric aspects of the stadium experience. There is also nothing more deafening than the mixture of the band and the crowd. This also build the energy needed throughout the stadium, and when the band is at its best the music aids the story of the game.
To really break down the sound aspect, we can take a scientific look at the loudest stadiums in the country using decibels. The current record is held by Washington with 133.6 decibels, and when measuring decibels there are other aspects to consider like stadium acoustics and crowd size. That being said, on this list by 247Sports, Ohio State doesn’t even crack the top-10, which is another challenge on the table for this upcoming season.
The quality of the environment is not fully told by the decibel level, but this does give a defining metric on how impactful stadium noise can be. The sea of scarlet in combination can get loud, but not as loud as some other environments.
Now if you’ve read this far, you probably think this an article about some grumpy writer coming after Ohio State. That is not the case. I just expect more from the Buckeye faithful on game day. The Buckeyes have given fans an incredible product to cheer for since the 2012 season, and the fans seem to have started to take that for granted. With marquee games not being sold out until game time and ticket sales on a downward trend, there needs to be raised expectations.
Right now, the home field advantage at Ohio State as well as the game day experience are not all that good. The fanbase has been flat, and when fans complain about a flat performance from the team, thoses in attendance should look is in a mirror. Ohio State takes on Notre Dame week one this season. The opportunity to re-establish the Shoe as an incredibly hostile environment is here. They host a long list of great opponents in Iowa, who still hasn’t been repaid for the beating they put on the Buckeyes, Wisconsin, who is always fun to host, and Michigan, who ended a decade of being dominated last season.
The Buckeyes will be looking to own the Shoe this year, and with those four marquee games on the list it is time to build a new reputation for the opponent experience. You hear how crazy “White Out” games are, no one wants to travel to Kinnick Stadium, and even Northwestern has the long grass at Ryan Field. Ohio State has new turf, the wifi has improved, and now is time for the fans to make the Shoe the last place teams want to travel to.
This article may not come off in a way that endears fans, but this article is an expectation that the fans are capable of much more. This is a challenge, and this is up to Buckeye Nation to prove me wrong and make this take incredibly stupid next year.