Home advantage, improved facilities helps UH athletics succeed
Students, alumni and fans, totaling over 7,000, packed the virgin Fertitta Center on Dec. 1, 2018 to welcome a competitive basketball game for the first time since its renovation from Hofheinz Pavilion. Houston, then unranked, struck down the No. 18 Oregon Ducks 65-61.
The $60 million arena, which will be used by the basketball and volleyball teams, roared and shook in its inaugural game, spurring UH to its 23rd home win in a row at that time.
It would not be until March 2, 2019 that the Cougars would suffer their first loss in the refurbished arena 69-64 at the hands of UCF, ending the nation’s longest active win streak at 33 games.
Success at home, however, has not been a constant for just UH’s basketball team but across all sports.
“Home court advantage means you have all of your fans, and all your family is able to come so you’re more fired up,” said junior middle blocker Kendall Haywood of the volleyball team. “It helps us play better because we have our peers there, and we always want to show them how it is to play volleyball so they’ll be willing to come to more games.”
Across nine team sports, with three men’s and six women’s teams, the Cougars have won over 65 percent of all home matches dating back to August 2015. Among them is the men’s basketball team, which went 19-1 at home in 2018-2019 alone.
During the last four years, UH athletics has had six undefeated seasons. To pair with its sole home loss this season, the men’s basketball team won all 15 home games in 2017-2018’s campaign. In football, the program recorded back-to-back undefeated home stands in 2015 and 2016, going 8-0 and 6-0, respectively.
The swimming and diving team also notched repeat undefeated home spells in the last two seasons, going 3-0 in both. To round it out, the women’s tennis program joined in with a 24-2 home stand in the same time frame.
The most successful teams at home are the football and men’s basketball teams, with each team having won nearly 90 percent of their respective home matches since fall 2015. All but two UH teams, women’s basketball and volleyball, have had winning records at home in this time period.
“I think having different sports there and family there and knowing that we have people in the stands to cheer for us when we score and make a good play is very supportive,” said senior forward Desiree Bowen of the soccer team.
Along with the Fertitta Center, a focus on new and impressive venues to ensure the advantage of playing at home has been common at the University of Houston.
TDECU Stadium, the home of Cougar football, opened its doors for the first time in August 2014 to replace the now-demolished Robertson Stadium. In its opening year alone, the $125 million project brought in over 15,000 season ticket holders and increased attendance by about 17 percent.
The Carl Lewis International Complex, home of the track and field and soccer teams, joined the trend as a $4 million facility that recently received a $1.5 million renovation in 2016.
With attendance at UH sporting events rising greatly, including an average of 31,617 in attendance at football games, long-term success should closely follow.
Time and time again, UH fans have come out to show support for the Cougars, and much of it is attributed to the facilities.
It is no secret that fans give an advantage to the home team, and it shows here in Houston.