Warrior home sleepovers get budget wake-up call


POSTED: Thursday, July 02, 2009

When you've got the homefield, you're supposed to do everything you can within reason to exploit it and, as the kids say, protect your house. That's why groundskeepers turn basepaths into mud bogs when speed merchants come to town. That's why you put your clever, rowdy students behind the visitors' bench. That's why you paint the walls of the guests' locker room pink.

The home turf in college football is generally worth a good five to seven points. For some teams, like Hawaii, even more. The warm climate and the distance from home tend to give the Warriors a big advantage at Aloha Stadium.

BUT THERE'S a strange little irony in the college football homefield edge equation. It's a twist off that cliche you hear often in other sports when participants speak of the joys of home: “;You get to sleep in your own bed.”;

The funny thing is that is not true for many college football players, including those who suit up for UH. The top 60 expected to play, and staff, stay at a hotel the night before each home contest.

When I first learned of this many years ago, I couldn't figure it out. It didn't seem to make any sense.

But I now realize there is some logic to it. When you've got that many guys and you need them all to report to one place at the same time, it's good to have them all together the night before rather than spread out all over campus and beyond.

At the hotel, you have position meetings, you have offense, defense and special teams meetings. You all eat together and go to a movie together.

You bond and prepare for your pseudo war together.

As it gets late, you're supposed to study up on your plays, maybe play some video games and then be in bed when a coach comes a knockin'.

Just like when you're on the road.

And there it is. Why should your opponents, who are on the road, have this advantage of all being together the night before the game, while the home team players are on their own, many of them doing things what typical college students do on a Friday night—some of which aren't conducive to winning a football game the next day?

That's why the home team stays in a hotel, too.

THIS TRADITION could be on its way out. As athletic directors scour their cash-strapped budgets, looking for places to save money in a down economy, this item stands out—at least on the surface—as an obviously unnecessary luxury: “;Hotel for home games.”;

UH athletic director Jim Donovan said he spoke with football coach Greg McMackin about it, and McMackin convinced him that the home hotel helps the team significantly in organization and preparation.

But is it $130,000 worth of advantage? That's the early estimate for what it will cost to put up the Warriors on the eves of home games this fall. Sounds like they need to get the Priceline Negotiator involved in the deal.

There may not be a choice as soon as next year. The Pac-10 wants legislation so it can chop some Hotel California out of the expense columns. While there's something to be said for having the whole gang all together for a sleepover, I'm pretty sure abolishment of this practice won't give visiting teams too much of an advantage.

Actually, I'm certain of it. There's one WAC football team that sleeps in its own beds at home: Boise State.