Since 2013, UNCG men’s basketball has played in Fleming Gymnasium 9 times, going 8-1 (89 percent) in those contests. UNCG has gone 34-24 (59 percent) in other 58 home games they have played at the Greensboro Coliseum in that time. There are perhaps other factors at play, but Fleming is a small and intimate arena that, when packed, is the loudest environment you will find in the Southern Conference. With 2000+ screaming Spartan fans crammed into that gym, the bleachers literally shaking from the noise, it’s a homecourt advantage that’ll leave your ears ringing. Bring earplugs.
Financially, it makes sense for an up-and-coming mid-major to move their home games to the nearby Greensboro Coliseum. There is more space for box seats and season tickets, more sponsorship opportunities, and most importantly, there is a certain prestige associated with the Coliseum that Athletic Director Kim Record very much so wants UNCG basketball to become synonymous with. Perhaps it is the history of that building, as every ACC championship was held there until the past decade. It might be working—the Spartans had their best season in a decade in 2017, finishing with a 25-10 record, 14-4 in conference record and a NIT berth. With the team off to another strong start this season, AD Record’s vision of a nationally-relevant UNCG basketball program may be coming to fruition.
Still, the turnouts at the Coliseum are low. The only times the tarps on the upper level come off are when an ACC team comes to town—and at that point, it is nearly road game for the Spartans. The athletic department makes lots of money off those games, fitting more people into stands than they ever would at Fleming. But one cannot wonder if those close losses may have turned out differently had they been played with a true home court advantage.
However, credit is due for the athletic department to make the decision to host a handful of games in Fleming each year. It shows an impressive level of commitment on AD Record’s part by giving fans an opportunity to see their Spartans on campus. This season, the team has already played in Fleming three times (winning all three handily) and will play there again versus Western Carolina on Feb. 10, a game that could very well have huge implications in the SoCon standings. Having four games in Fleming is a good sign. It encourages students to come out and cheer on their team; they can simply walk from their dorms or apartments instead of taking the bus to the Coliseum.
There is something special about an on-campus arena. It’s clear that UNCG is investing heavily in their basketball program, but it feels wrong to go off-campus and play in a mostly-empty arena. From the jersey combinations to the flashy cars on the hype video to the huge giveaways, things are in motion to develop a basketball culture at UNCG, and while playing at the Coliseum has its benefits, it makes it harder for the student body to engage in and become a part of that culture.
There is no easy answer to this issue, but head coach Wes Miller has one:
“Having the Greensboro Coliseum as our home allows us to attract top-quality opponents,” UNCG coach Wes Miller said before the start of the 2016-17 season, according to an article from the Greensboro News and Record. “There are not many mid-major programs in the country that can say they will host an opponent the caliber and prestige of Virginia to open a season, but our partnership with the Greensboro Coliseum affords us those opportunities. Our student-athletes enjoy playing in one of the finest basketball facilities in the entire Southeast.”
That is a fair point, Coach Miller. But that is not a factor in conference games, the truly important games where a rocking gym can potentially make or break a season. In a perfect world, UNCG would play their out of conference home games in the Coliseum, still giving fans their box seats and whatnot, and still displaying the prestige of UNCG basketball, while bringing conference games back on campus, where the rowdy Spartan faithful can will their team to victories that may have simply been defeats in the Coliseum.