Penn State's Beaver Stadium is already one of the toughest away venues in college football. But this fall—thanks to some scientific chicanery—it's going to be nearly 50% louder, making it almost impossible for opposing QBs to be heard.
PSU's not achieving the increase by adding more seats or handing out more thundersticks. In fact, they're just going to relocate the 20,000 seats in the student section to the southern end zone. The real story is how they got there, starting with data crunching that goes back in the 07-08 season. That's when Penn State grad student Andrew Barnard used 11 sound meters to record crowd noise at three home games:
What he found: that when opposing teams had the ball, the noise level in the stadium hit 110 decibels—50 times the volume as when Penn State was on offense. Not surprising on its own, but the info enabled Barnard to find the spot where the raucous student section could be 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 move is expected to cut the range of a quarterback's voice by an additional six inches, meaning more false starts, more penalties, and more opportunities for the Nittany Lions.