Visiting college football teams may soon learn to fear Penn State's Beaver Stadium: Not because the Nittany Lions are vicious and unbeatable, but because they're using science.
When the college football season kicks off this fall, Beaver Stadium is going to be almost 50% louder when the opponents take the field than it is today - which means it'll be harder for enemy QBs to be heard. The trick? Penn State isn't adding any more seats to the wild student section (already 20,000 strong), they're just moving them to the southern end zone.
The relocation of the student seat was the result of data gathered (and numbers crunched) during the 2007-2008 season, when PSU grad student Andrew Barnard used 11 strategically placed sound meters to measure crowd volume during several home games.
Barnard found that his fellow students grew much, much rowdier when the opposing team had the ball: Noise in the stadium reached 110 decibels when the visitors were on the offensive, a staggering 50 times the volume than when the home team had the spotlight. His goal, then, was to find the spot where the student section would be the most effective.
When the stadium was empty, he searched for the best spots for an audible assault by carrying a noisy speaker around to 45 different seats and measuring how loud it sounded on the field... For seats on the sidelines, closer was better. Students sitting in the highest rows contributed very little to the overall sound. But the situation was reversed behind the end zone. Higher seats could be heard better than field-level seats because of a trick of the stadium's architecture, said Barnard.
The resulting increase in volume will cut the QB's speaking range by as much as six inches - and that might not sound like a lot, but it'll almost assuredly lead to confusion and perhaps more false starts and penalties for Nittany Lions' opponents.
Science: It can save the world, blow things up, and give you a bigger home field advantage.