All schools prefer to play at home, and the Utes are no exception.
The University of Utah features unique advantages when playing at home, such as being accustomed to the state’s altitude. With an ominous elevation of 4,637 feet, the Utes have prepared themselves for the additional problems that the thin air presents for teams in the Pac-12 used to playing at sea level. Along with capitalizing on the altitude, Utah feeds off of its passionate fanbase.
The MUSS plays a large role in the Utes’ success. Since the U is the flagship university of the state and is located in the state’s capital of Salt Lake City, the Utes gain support for the university’s athletic programs. Rice-Eccles Stadium can seat 45,017 people and the Huntsman Center seats 15,000. Both of those two colossal arenas reserve seats for the raucous student section. The MUSS’ third-down jump is so seismic that it registers as a minor earthquake, causing major frustration and distraction for opponents having to deal with the noise of the prideful MUSS.
The U’s talented teams benefit greatly from the chaotic atmosphere that the student section lends with the distracting noise, which adds another obstacle for opposing teams to combat. Utah has thrived while playing at home both recently and in the past, and may thrive more due to the unique advantages of altitude and excellent fan support. Playing inside of Rice-Eccles, the football team had a 4-3 record last year in the vaunted Pac-12. As recently as 2015 in the very same Pac-12, they went 6-1 inside of Rice Eccles, with the only loss coming from UCLA with many starters injured.
Moreover, inside the friendly confines of the Huntsman Center, the Runnin’ Utes men’s basketball team went 14-3 last season. There have been some truly historic home records through the years. Rick Majerus’ 1997-1998 Utes went undefeated at home en route to being runner-ups in the NCAA tournament. Success in the Huntsman Center doesn’t only include basketball. There is also volleyball, where the girls went 12-4 at home last year as compared to an 8-5 road record. Perhaps the most successful sport at the U is women’s gymnastics, where the Red Rocks take dominion of the Huntsman Center. The Red Rocks are ranked fifth in the nation and feast upon their competition at home. Using their phenomenal prowess and the avid support from the devoted fans to help them, the team has won ten national championships. Though excellent on the road as well, the additional spirit and energy of playing inside the friendly confines of a home arena or stadium add that extra incentive to win. The Red Rocks are nearly unbeatable at home.
Traditionally, the home team, if nearly equal in ability, tends to win nearly 70 percent of the time. With the competition in the Pac-12 being elite regardless of the sport, the fans at a home game factor in more and more to the results in the loaded conference of champions. The Utes as an athletic program, especially in the most popular sports, gain immense support from the crowd and the added comfort from playing in our home facilities. So much goes unappreciated by the common observer, such as how much more simple playing at home is in comparison to traveling however far to the opponent’s place, not sleeping in the usual bed, eating differently, not being accustomed to the field or court, weather or altitude. For these reasons, it is crucial to protect your house and win while playing in the friendly confines of your home stadium as the Utes so often do.
Though difficult to appreciate any win as more than a win, the players and coaches know the importance of defending their home turf, and how critical it can be to gaining wins. The Utes will look to defend their turf and use the advantages of playing at home to compete for titles within the Pac-12 conference and nationally.