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Before I begin, I should probably explain why we haven’t posted in a while. Frankly, it’s just been bad timing. I just got back from a study abroad program in Europe, and Charlie is still …

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We (really do) determine when you hear the snap count

Submitted by on April 28, 201027 Comments

Actually, you’ll be lucky if you get to hear the whistle as the opposing team in Beaver Stadium. Penn State’s director of communications and branding for Penn State football Guido D’Elia has teamed up with graduate student Andrew Barnard in the latest salvo for home field superiority.

“Somebody mentioned what a great acoustics lab we have, and I said: ‘Well, all right then. We’ll put it to use,’ ” D’Elia said.

Considering the accolades already bestowed upon the 110,000+ fans that pack Beaver Stadium, further increasing decibel levels would solidify Penn State’s reign among college football’s best home field environments. An ESPN survey of coaches in 2007 awarded Penn State the highest marks of any collegiate stadium for noise beating out often cited Tiger Stadium (LSU) and Auzten Stadium (Oregon) for the honor.

For the longest time, much of this best/most hostile/loudest argument have been opinion based, biased and simply water cooler chatter. But now, Penn State actually has the figures and scientific data to back up a distinction many already assumed to be true.

Both D’Elia and Barnard teamed up during the 2007-2008 season to record actual crowd noise using 11 sound meters placed strategically around the field.

The results were as expected. On offense, the Nittany Lions enjoyed the advantage of 75 decibels, as loud as a car radio playing at a reasonable level.

But on defense, the crowd roared at 110 decibels.

Decibel levels are a measurement that expresses the magnitude relative to specified or implied reference level. Since it expresses a ratio of two quantities with the same unit, it is a dimensionless unit. A decibel is one tenth of a bel, a seldom-used unit.

That means the 110 decibels recorded on defense is 50 times as loud as when Penn State was on offense. It’s like having a conversation standing adjacent to a giant speaker in a rock concert for opposing quarterbacks making on-field adjustments.

Though the results provides for bragging rights, the measurements were initially recorded to further improve one of the most hostile venues in college football. This brings us to the controversial decision to relocate the student section during this offseason.

The current student section spans the middle of the South end zone to the 30-yard line on the eastern side of Beaver Stadium

Sound measurements made during 3 home games during the 2007-08 season revealed that the student section spanning from the middle of the southern end zone to the 30-yard line produced the most noise within the stadium. The noise from the remaining sideline seats currently occupied by juniors and seniors simply did not match up. In fact, much of the student section that occupies these sideline seats contributed very little to overall sound, much of it simply weakened before it hit the field.

What D’Elia and Bernard did find surprising was that this “closer-is-better” effect that spanned much of the current student section is reversed behind the end zone thanks to Beaver Stadium’s upper deck which juts out towards the field at the end zone. Noise from the higher seats in the end zone is actually more amplified than that from the lower seats. The upper deck that overhangs the end zones actually amplifies noise from the higher seats much like a megaphone projecting all of the amplified sound directly at the field.

Photo credited to The Daily Collegian

Now fast forward to the new football seating arrangements. Penn State has moved 20,000 student section seats originally located along the sidelines directly into the southern end zone in 2011. Barnard’s computer models have predicted this move will decrease the noise along the east side of the field (well yea! you just removed 20,000 screaming students from that side) but amplify the west side of the Beaver Stadium by almost 50 percent. An increase that dramatic would cut a quarterback’s voice on the field by another 6 inches which could result in greater false starts and penalty opportunities. Teams would only be able to hear their quarterback’s voice from a foot and a half away.

A view of the south end zone which the student section will completely occupy starting in 2011

“We will own that end zone,” said D’Elia. “The students’ voices will have an unobstructed view of the entire field, and when another team is down in that end, we’ll be able to maintain that home field advantage.”

There are many who use a single sound meter reading during 1 specific game as justification of some acoustics superiority, but this study conducted at Penn State spanned an entire season, 3 home games and multiple empty stadium analysis. This represents the most comprehensive crowd noise study done in a college football stadium by any program to date. And Penn State is eager to utilize this new data to it’s advantage. Not only will Beaver Stadium amplify it’s already deafening student section, it has employed the use of its recordings during practice to prepare for the noise they will hear face at opposing stadiums. Clearly confident that nothing they will hear at any opposing venue will be worse than our own fans.

“Everyone wants to say that they have the loudest fans, everyone wants that badge of honor,” said Barnard. “Any big stadium is going to claim that they’re the loudest, but Penn State is only one with data to back that up.”

Science and sports, at its very best.

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  • The Man

    And Guidumb still sucks!

  • Sam

    Excuses… justification for moving the Juniors and Seniors to cheaper seats. It's all about the money.. you can roll it anyway you like, but this is pure greed by the university

  • Charlie

    That may very well be, but the attempts by Guido D'Elia to enhance the football experience can't be understated. Zombie Nation, pre game videos, white outs, the list just goes on. And now a stadium acoustics study that could potentially make it more deafening is just incredible. I know many students are upset about losing seats in prime locations, but its done, and let's just enjoy the silver lining.

  • The Man

    But Guidumb is spinning this as the reason for the re-seating when, in fact, it is not the case at all.

    Hell, he made up his own story about the origin of “We Are Penn State,” for Christ's sake and tried to get morons to believe it. He is a pompous, arrogant, no-talent, scummy, sleazy marketing hack

  • Sam

    If your a Junior or a Senior, that is easy to say, but as a Sophmore, this is a big middle finger in my face. About the game day experience, I hope they get rid of the stupid male cheerleaders yelling in those mega phones. It's the most deflating experience… at least for me

  • buckeyeski

    That crowd noise didnt help one bit when tOSU steamrolled you guys. Well, actually, for some reason the crowd noise apparently caused the refs to give you a pity TD, when the ball didnt even cross the plane. See you in the 'Shoe

  • Charlie

    Just don't see how Penn State relocating the student section that pays $210 for season tickets to into the south end zone is an insult to sophomores, or students in general. Sure it might not be as generous as the seats given to students in the years past, but it is in no way an obligation by this university to save prime sideline seats for students. Of course it's about money, but money is what keeps our self sufficient athletics programs running. The school actually moved the visitors section to the upper decks of where they once were (a la Michigan), let's be glad they didn't do that with the student section.

    And how in any way are male cheerleaders hampering your college football experience. I know male cheerleaders that matriculated at Penn State and they have worked tirelessly and voluntarily to enhance the sporting experience for fans whether some like it or not. How they even affect you personally as a fan is beyond me. Please avoid overarching sentiments of intolerance.

  • Sam

    Look, this is not only a complaint as a student. I talked to numerous Alumns who are unhappy with this change. People who've held season tickets for years aren't able to afford those tickets, because what? the university wants to make an extra buck? You don't think the University get's enough money with exclusive deals with At&T, Pepsi Etc? You don't think the AD makes enough money selling PSU products from coast to coast? Yet the costs for tickets rises ever year. So now that other schools do something, we should be pleased that our school isn't as bad as theirs? As a student I have every right to be upset about this regardless of what you think.

    I'm not attack that specific individuals or group. The student body shouldn't be led by an individual, the only individuals I can see justified to pump the crowd like that is the lion, and Joe. I do not need them yelling and telling me to do this and that at a football game with those cheesy lines mixed with it.

  • Sam

    And about the game day atmosphere. How are they going to deal with the S zone? Paternoville? Like I said, spin it however you like, whatever makes you happy

  • Charlie

    You have every right to be upset, just as the university has the right to refuse us certain seats. In fact, if the university wanted to make even more money, they could very well reduce the size of the student section for the more lucrative season ticket holders, I'm glad they haven't done that. But we can't be naive and think they are looking out for our best interests. The athletic department, much like the university is a business, cutting costs and increasing profits. The bottom line is what matters here and we simply don't have the clout we all believe we should have.

    And your initial comment on male cheerleaders just came off as intolerant though your explanation is legitimate. Almost all successful college cheerleading squads have male members who are physically able to lift, carry and perform in ways female only squads can't.

  • psudevon

    I like this Sam kid. You and me both, bro.

  • psudevon

    Sour grapes over a game you still won? That's a Buckeye fan for you.

  • Charlie

    The S zone did not used to be along the sidelines as it is now. It used to be located directly behind the field goal posts. And as for Paternoville, rules dictate that Paternoville and its tents must be removed hours well in advance of the game anyways, so I don't see how a new student section location would affect that. These are just little details that really aren't affected by the change. The student section relocation is disturbing to students as they very well should be, but to say they would affect and somehow alter our traditions is short sighted.

  • juventus20

    I won't even comment on the OSU fan…..see you in the SHOE!

    I can't wait to hear you complain when our womens volleyball team actually loses one game out of a match or that he Lion's one arm push-ups are not realistic enough. People like you will always look for something to complain about. Penn State did not become known as the “Greatest Show in Football” by changing traditions, we created new ones that intensify the game day experience. As a sophomore, you have been there through 2 decent years of football. You did not see all the hard work that went into creating these traditions you take for granted. I began my Penn State football experience in 2003 when we went 3-9 and 2004 when we were 4-7. We had plenty to complain about those years, but we still remained loud and proud. The stadium was still full, the crowd was still loud and the cheerleaders still did an amazing job Then the 2005 season hit. We imagined how terrible it would be having another sub .500 season. We beat Northwester, OSU, and ended up in the orange bowl. This was the season when the fans pulled out all the stops. Although the whiteout started the season before, this was the year we were recognized for it. Kirk Herbstreit, an OSU football alum, called us the best student section in the country. I sat in the 5th row of the Ohio State game and could not hear myself think. These fans didn't care where they sat or what the cheerleaders did, all they cared about was supporting their team and being as loud as possible. True fans don't care where they sit. I actually preferred to be in the end zone.
    If you knew anything about Penn State history, you would know that the S zone was originally over the tunnel until the blue band moved there. Moving the students is no new thing. At least we don't go to a school like West Virginia where they actually put the bulk of their students in the upper deck of the stadium.
    I am not saying you should not complain about legitimate problems, but these are not problems, they are ways to market Penn State Football. I don't know about you, bu all these videos pre-game get me really pumped up and make me even crazier when football season finally comes around.
    As a former male cheerleader, I think you should keep your damn mouth shut before you insult other students. We work to be a leader of the student fan base and a representative of th university. The football games are a small part of what we do and if you are worried about the cheerleaders during the game, I think you have bigger problems…stop complaining about us and start yelling like a true fan!

  • WTF?


  • psudevon

    Sorry, WTF, it'll be up tomorrow. We just had some formatting issues to work out.

  • psudevon

    Well put…but have you heard the male cheerleaders this year? I don't mind them existing but the one dude who spends 5 minutes trying to get people to cheer is wholly unncecessary.

  • Charlie

    How bad could they really be, I do remember the pre-game “If I say Blue, you say White…” pep rally by the cheerleader prior to games. How could that possibly be annoying. At games, fans are already so amped up and anxious, even I would cheer if someone just rolled a ball across the field.

    Juventus20 is right. We really have been spoiled. I was there during the dark years of 03 and 04 and the crowd was loud, fans came early and frankly no one cared where they watched the game. We were 3-9 and 4-7 by that point remember? What did it matter as long as we got tickets to catch the game. Now with a resurgent football program we have found something else to complain about. When the athletic department actually takes away seats form the student section, you'll definitely find me in the forefront of the firestorm, but pushy cheerleaders, pumped in music and relocated seats? Please, there's gotta be bigger concerns than that.

  • psudevon

    Eh, it's some dumb meathead wasting 5 minutes of our time. I could overlook it, but if I'm building a gameday atmosphere from scratch, Mic man isn't a part of it.

    I don't mind the pumped in music, though I wish we'd let the Blue Band play more–and more good music. When the George Mason band came in for the NIT, they absolutely killed it, and had the pimpingest band director ever. I like the PSU music, but even LSU was playing stuff like “Come Out and Play” during the Capital One Bowl. Our band's playlist is pretty boring.

    And the thing about relocating seats: Charlie, you got to sit near midfield. Wasn't that what was great about moving up a year? Another year, better seats, until you finally got some of the best in the house? Now, we're getting pushed back to the worst seats in the lower bowl, all to make money that WE DO NOT NEED. The cash grab is entirely unnecessary, considering Penn State is a) already the #3 most profitable program in the country and b) doesn't seem to be spending any money on the two other sports people would care about, basketball or hockey. The athletic department ran a surplus of $20 million last year, and they're taking that out by punishing the kids? The football team exists for the school, which exists for the students. We should be catered to, not consistently overlooked.

  • Charlie

    I really do understand your frustration, one shared by the majority of students I'm sure. The STEP seat relocation is a blatant and disturbing attempt to raise profits, but students now (just like back when I was one) just don't have the financial clout to sit atop the athletic department's priority list. Don't get me wrong, I am not under any misguided notion that the relocation of the student section is the direct result of any acoustics study or to enhance the Beaver Stadium experience.

    But unless I can find a tangible course of action to reverse this move, I can only look for the silver lining which is the increase in crowd noise within Beaver Stadium. What the athletic department did in moving the students was wrong, seniors should be able to look forward to advancing towards the 50 yard line especially when they fall back down the totem poll of seats once they graduate and purchase NLC tickets.

  • PSUMatt

    Students have no room to complain. They were pathetic last year. Not once did the student section fill up. If any changes are made, I think there should be changes in who can buy tickets. If you sell more than one of your tickets you shouldn't be allowed to buy them the following year. It makes me so angry to see how the students just don't care anymore. They all say, “it's not a big game so I don't care”…. That's embarrassing. There are plenty of students that actually want the tickets. Until students actually show up and start caring, stop complaining…

  • psudevon

    It filled up for the Iowa and Ohio State games, but the ticket system made it basically impossible to give away your ticket. You had to sell it through the system, which charged a fee and required a credit card, you couldn't validate tickets for non-students, and you couldn't give tickets away after Wednesday. It was an absolute farce. It used to be that you could give away tickets for a lesser game for 10, 15 bucks, or just give it away. This year, you had to know well ahead of time that you weren't going to make it, and find someone, swap credit card info and Penn State ID's, and it was such a clusterfuck that thousands of seats went unfilled.

  • PSUMatt

    See, this is my point. I understand that certain circumstances come up (sickness, unexpected occurrences, etc). However, if you plan on giving tickets away, don't buy season tickets!! Students are lucky they're even able to sell their tickets. I wouldn't allow any students to sell their tickets. If they can't go to a game, they should have to just post it online, and someone can take it for no profit. I think it's ridiculous that you can still sell your ticket online for a profit. I thought that's why they got rid of the paper tickets to begin with.

  • psudevon

    I'm not talking about a profit. Nobody was making money on tickets except for a marquee game or two, and those sold out anyway. I'm talking about these Akron, Temple, Northwestern type games that people don't NEED to go to. But the thing is, if something comes up–and things do come up–you could get sick, get inundated with schoolwork, or it could be a crappy day and you don't want to sit in the cold, somebody else would want to. The fact that people were willing to pay exorbitant amounts for tickets meant that people who couldn't get season tickets still wanted to go to games. But by limiting the ability to give away tickets, even for 10 or 15 bucks, or for free, it's like saying we don't care about kids who didn't get student tickets.

    Scalping is looked down upon, but compared to this system it's really good for all parties. For the seller, you're getting some money, it makes it easier to buy tickets and get into the games for a buyer (and for a game like the Minnesota game, you would only be paying 10 bucks), and for the school, it makes us look better and improves game day atmosphere. This system is a joke.

  • PSUMatt

    The system isn't perfect but its better than the system last year. Even the marquee games like Iowa and Ohio State, tickets were available online. What I'm saying is if you don't plan on going to the “Akron, Temple, Northwestern type games” then you shouldn't buy tickets because trust me, there are people that would want to. I feel so strongly about this because I was one of those people who was on at 7:00 am clicking right when it opened up and got left out in the old system. People were selling the tickets for $700+ on ebay. And here I was just wanting to go to the games. I managed to get “discounted $500″ season tickets. I have no sympathy whatsoever for those who complain about the current system. The bottom line is this a college event and students have no right to try to buy tickets just to sell them. Yes, the current system can be changed, but this is the only solution to get students who actually want to go to the games an opportunity to get the tickets.

  • psudevon

    I don't think that's fair to say. Sure, you and me were the ones clicking refresh for a minute waiting for the ticket sale to go online, but most fans aren't as dedicated. They don't necessarily care about going to the Eastern Illinois game. And it's not like they were going to get $50 for that game anyway. They'd give it away, to a friend who had a buddy coming down, or who wanted to go a game. I'm as big a fan as anybody–hell, I have a blog about Penn State football, and I've had to miss 3 of the 15 home games during my 2 years here so far, once because I had the flu, another time because I was in Puerto Rico (MSU in 2008), and last year, I had to go to Philly during the Minnesota game for reasons I'd rather not get into here. Both games I missed in 2008, I gave my ticket away for 25 bucks–reasonable, face value, and to friends each time. Last year, I couldn't find anybody to give the ticket away to, because of the difficulty. You couldn't go around the dorm, asking anyone if they needed another ticket. There was no turnover on that official site. Fewer tickets changes hands last year, and not at exorbitant prices, but fewer cheap tickets got sold.

    Take a game like Temple–nobody's making money scalping that game. But in 2008 it was full, and in 2009 it wasn't. That's because the administration made it virtually impossible for people to sell or trade or give away tickets. That's wrong. Once we buy the ticket, they should be our property. I'm not talking about selling them for hundreds of dollars for marquee games, because that's not where most scalping happens.

  • Charlie

    The last time I purchased student tickets online was also the final year for the online free for all ticketmaster system. (No separate days for freshmen, sophomores, juniors, seniors) You were either online and in the system by 7 am or you missed out. This was also the year when the entire 21,000+ student ticket allotment sold out in 90 seconds.…

    Of the group of friends I normally attended games with, only 3 of us managed to acquire student season tickets through official channels. The rest were relegated to searching the secondary markets for them and boy was it an expensive season for them.

    Now I'm not saying students today shouldn't be legitimately concerned with the new system, but it has made purchasing tickets that much fairer and accessible. But the issues today are stuff we would taken in stride back in the days of losing seasons. They really need to revamp the ticket transfer system, that's a given, but I never considered a game during my student years a game I didn't “need” to go to. I sure hope students don't have that attitude now that we are consistently competitive.