Dec. 8, 2012; Spokane, WA, USA; The Gonzaga Bulldogs student section turns around during the introduction of the Illinois Fighting Illini before a game at the McCarthey Athletic Center. Mandatory Credit: James Snook-USA TODAY Sports
Recently, Mark Kramer wrote an article about why BYU has the greatest home advantage in the WCC. Well, consider this a rebuttal. While BYU has the higher enrollment numbers, Gonzaga has the heart and the investment in its close knit community.
While Gonzaga may have less than 10,000 students, they are all sports fanatics.
One advantage that Gonzaga has is the McCarthey Athletic Center (MAC). The Gonzaga men’s basketball team has only lost eight times at home since the MAC was built in 2004. The Zags haven’t lost at home since 2012. The arena holds 6,000 people, so it is packed for every game. The MAC is designed to be loud. People are packed in tightly. They jump, scream, and cheer nonstop.
Nov 17, 2013; Spokane, WA, USA; The McCarthey Athletic Center before the Gonzaga Bulldogs take on the Oakland Golden Grizzlies. Mandatory Credit: James Snook-USA TODAY Sports
Getting tickets to a single Gonzaga basketball game is tough. Getting season tickets? There’s going to be a wait on that one. I’m not sure how long the waiting list to get season tickets is, but from what I’ve gathered being a season ticket holder is a highly coveted position. It is also difficult for students. In order to get a ticket students are required to wait in line for hours. After this on game day students start lining up to get into the game early in the morning. For the bigger games staying in tents overnight is required. The tenting process is highly organized. People go wild in order to get a good spot in line. People fight the snow, rain, and cold in order to get into the big games.
This does not only go for men’s basketball. The MAC is consistently packed for women’s basketball games as well. The Spokane community strongly supports both teams, but it is more apparent at the women’s games. The Spokane community never fails to show up. It is powerful to see a community so united.
Gonzaga baseball has been highly successful recently. Current St. Louis Cardinals pitcher, Marco Gonzales attended Gonzaga. The seats get packed for home baseball games. No sports fan can resist baseball once the spring and summer weather comes around and it is no exception in Spokane. The Bulldogs haven’t had a losing season since 1998. This consistent success fills the seats on a regular basis.
July 1, 2014; San Francisco, CA, USA; St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Marco Gonzales (56) delivers a pitch during the first inning against the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park. The Giants defeated the Cardinals 5-0. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Gonzaga men’s and women’s soccer always gets fans in the stands. It is always difficult to find a seat at these games. That is a reoccurring theme at Gonzaga. So many people at and around the school want to attend all of the sporting events that they can. The same goes for volleyball. If you want to get a good seat, you better show up early.
The thing that sets Gonzaga apart when it comes to home advantage is the student section. ESPN analyst, Jay Bilas had this to say about the Gonzaga student section, “They go to school, they do their homework, they shake hands, they say please and thank you, but once you throw that ball up they will rip your heart out and watch you bleed.” This is a good representation of the passion and ferocity that the Gonzaga student section has. In 2011 Bleacher Report ranked the GU student section 13th in the nation. This is a little low. In 2013 the Kennel Club (the student section’s nickname) made it to the semi-finals of the voting for the Naismith Student Section of the Year contest. In 2014 the NCAA ranked the Kennel Club the 5th best student section in the nation. Gonzaga students are not satisfied with this ranking. They want to be number one. The video that the NCAA put out ranking the top five student sections states, “Coach Few has credited this rowdy bunch for giving the team an eight to ten point advantage.” That is quite the advantage.
Gonzaga may be small, but it is mighty. The fans are extremely passionate and cheer relentlessly every season. This is what gives the Zags the best home advantage in the WCC.