Home Field (court) advantage and officiating

Officiating has been a popular topic in several game threads of late. During tonight's ugly pageant of a basketball game it was discussed at length.

There has been discussion about whether the B1G favors teams it wants to try and help make the tournament or otherwise keep in the national discussion. This concept is not pushed by many, and I generally hate conspiracy theories. But I will concede that if Tim Donaghy can get away with intentionally impacting games until well after the fact, I don't think you can completely dismiss the idea. I just think it's extemely unlikely.

There has also been discussion about whether MSU's style, or Izzo's relationship with officials, or some other unknown factor is the cause of this injustice.

I happen to agree that in a few cases this year (notably @Wisconsin, and @ Illinois) the officiating has been bad. But it reminded me of an article SI had that attempted to identify the cause of Home Field Advantage.

After trying to find the article, it appears it is no longer in the SI archive and was actually an excerpt from a book titled Scorecasting: The Hidden Influences Behind How Sports Are Played and Games are Won

Now the article isn't there anymore, and I haven't read the entire book. But thanks to the internet, this is not a problem, because other people have summarized the article/book for me


The theory is basically that when reviewed across large samples athlete/team performance doesn't really vary home vs away. The only thing that really changes is how officials call the game, and that the size/intensity of the home crowd plays a factor as well. They look across several sports, and even find a small "control" group in a European soccer league which forced its teams to play in front of empty stadiums due to security concerns.

They suggest that basically officials are influenced by crowd reaction on those 50/50 calls or no calls. An official sees a play that might be a foul and in the split second after it happens they are deciding whether to blow the whistle the crowd goes nuts and it subconsiously reinforces them and they make the call.

The links above raise some potential concerns, and again I haven't read the book. I don't know if I buy it entirely, but thought I would share it as a potential explanation for what we sometimes see when MSU goes on the road.*

*I also strongly suspect that other teams/fanbases would argue the same thing. That their team gets hosed, especially on the road. Unlike the officials, many of us are biased both consiously and unconsciously. I don't watch other B1G teams with the same level of interest to say for certain, but my strong suspicion is that it's not just MSU that gets bad calls.

This is a FanPost, written by a member of the TOC community. It does not represent the official positions of The Only Colors, Inc.--largely because we have no official positions.

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