If it feels like home-field advantage isn’t what it used to be, you’re right.

Or you’re completely wrong.

It depends on what your definition of “used to” is.

In looking at the 24,426 games on wyoming-football.com since 1894 where we know the winner, the loser and the location — and where the location was not a neutral site — we can see a consistent pattern in how often home teams win games. In total, home teams have 13,495 victories, 10,392 losses and 539 ties, a baseline winning percentage of .564. (If your math isn’t up to par, or if you’re just skimming, that means home teams have won 56.4 percent of Wyoming high school football games.)

Remember .564. It’s the measuring stick against which all other numbers in this post are measured.

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From season to season, home teams deviate subtly, but consistently, away from that baseline.

And those deviations are a factor of time — as long as that time is your great-grandpa’s time.

From 1920 to 1938, for 19 consecutive seasons, the home teams won Wyoming high school football games at above-average rates. Since 1939, though, winning percentages have been much more consistent.

Moreover, since 1939, there has been no consistent pattern. There have been stretches of home-field success and home-field struggle. In fact, since 1939, the winning percentage for Wyoming high school football teams is .557, which almost a full percent lower than our baseline.

For five straight years from 1942-46, home teams won at above-average rates, the longest such stretch in that era. However, in the 18 seasons from 1958-75, home teams won at an above-average rate just twice (1962 and 1968). That includes a seven-year stretch from 1969-75 where home teams won at below-average rates, the longest such streak.

That record was recently challenged; from 2013-18, the home team won at a below-average rate, too. In 2019 (.592) and 2020 (.577), the rate was above average, though; last year’s .563 was almost exactly on the average.

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The outliers stretch our expectations of what’s possible.

In 1977, home teams had a winning percentage of .483, the only time in Wyoming’s history that home teams finished below .500. Twice — in 1917 and again in 1984 — home teams went exactly .500, going 140-140 in 1984 and a much more modest 6-6-1 in 1917. The fourth-lowest winning percentage for home teams came recently, in 2015, when home teams had a winning percentage of .507.

Home teams did best in the early years. Since 1939, when numbers began evening out, home team’s best success came in 2002, when home teams had a winning percentage of .613. That was followed by 1989 (.612), 1983 (.612), 1991 (.611) and 2010 (.608).

Between 1921 — when high school football really took off in Wyoming — and 1939, the best home-field winning percentage came in 1923, when home teams went 62-27-4 (.688). In the 18 years between 1921 and 1938, home teams had a winning percentage of .622, almost 6 percent better than the average.

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So what happened? Why was home-field advantage so advantageous in the early years and less meaningful since 1939?

The short answer boils down, I think, to two factors: consistency and infrastructure.

In Wyoming’s early days of high school football, referees weren’t always the most neutral parties. The Wyoming High School Activities Association wasn’t even formed until 1931, 10 years after high school football got going. And even then, it took a while before the WHSAA coordinated officiating. Once officiating became more consistent, so did the game results.

As for infrastructure, take a look at this map of Wyoming in 1927. Count up the number of paved roads. Not many, are there? As the road system improved — as evidenced by this map from 1951, just 24 years later — teams could travel faster, spend less time on the road and arrive at games more refreshed and ready to play.

Since 1939, the most remarkable thing isn’t the change in home-field advantage. It’s the lack of it.

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Here’s a table listing the home-team records and winning percentages by year for Wyoming high school football:

YearWLTHome win %
202116512800.563
202017312700.577
201917712200.592
201815313800.526
201716813200.560
201616313400.549
201514614200.507
201415614100.525
201315214000.521
201216812700.569
201116813000.564
201017411200.608
200916212900.557
200816212300.568
200716711400.594
200616113600.542
200517012700.572
200416912300.579
200316312800.560
200217411000.613
200115312900.543
200013812200.531
199914411300.560
199814610900.573
199714511000.569
199614110800.566
199513811300.550
199414010800.565
199314710000.595
199213911200.554
19911549800.611
199014312700.530
198916410400.612
198814912500.544
198713613210.507
198614911300.569
198514513100.525
198414014000.500
198316710600.612
198214612400.541
198115411400.575
198014112200.536
197915111800.561
197816110700.601
197712913800.483
197615711710.573
197515013400.528
1974153132110.535
197315813480.540
1972158129100.549
1971151116130.563
1970145132100.523
1969148136140.520
196816712540.571
196716013220.548
196615312720.546
1965144114120.556
1964146114120.559
1963137125120.522
196215411250.577
1961145120130.545
1960138133130.509
1959142114120.552
1958136109100.553
195714711370.564
195613710090.575
195513811080.555
195413397120.574
1953137108110.557
195213199120.566
19511229770.555
195013010040.564
19491159380.551
19481108770.556
194710592100.531
194610263190.606
1945967080.575
19441046670.607
19439162100.589
19427852100.593
194113010290.558
194010910070.521
19391128970.555
193810165160.599
19379456140.616
193610051150.648
193510055190.629
19349360100.601
19337851140.594
19328250110.612
1931904680.653
19308847110.640
19296938120.630
19286143130.577
19277745100.621
1926684190.614
1925693690.645
1924643680.630
1923622740.688
1922533120.628
1921352510.582
192017630.712
19196500.545
1918No games
19176610.500
19166240.667
19159700.563
19146500.545
19136210.722
19129420.667
19117210.750
19108120.818
19097510.577
19084310.563
1894-190716750.661
TOTAL13495103925390.564

–patrick

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