Penn State's Football Stadium: Now 50% Louder!

By Darlene Cavalier | May 7, 2010 12:22 pm

penn-state-footballPenn State’s college football team has a new trick in its playbook–courtesy of acoustical science.

Penn State graduate student Andrew Barnard’s acoustic mapping research illustrates how the relocation of 20,000 student-fans in Penn State’s Beaver Stadium could lead to more wins for the Nittany Lions football team.

Last year, during three homes games, Barnard recorded and measured crowd noise at the stadium  using a series of strategically placed acoustic meters. He found when the Nittany Lions had the ball, the crowd noise reached 75 decibels on the field. But when the opposing team played offense, the noise climbed to 110 decibels. As a result, the visiting quarterback’s calls could only be heard within about 18 inches from him.

Barnard wondered whether he could make it even tougher for visiting QBs. So when the stadium was empty, he used a loudspeaker to create noise in various seating locations and measured the sound intensity on the field.  According to Gizmodo, Barnard zeroed in on the stadium’s acoustical sweet spot, where the loudest fans could be the most effective against opposing teams:

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.

As a result of this study, Penn State will move 20,000 students to the southern end zone next season, which Barnard’s models suggest will make the noise on the field almost 50 percent louder. The move is expected to cut an additional six inches off the range of the quarterback’s voice, presumably leading to more false starts and penalties for the visiting team.

Barnard presented his acoustic mapping data at the Acoustical Society of America meeting in Baltimore.

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Image: flickr / reivax


    For every measure, there is a countermeasure:

    A throat microphone, also laryngophone, is a type of microphone that picks up sound directly through sensors in contact with the neck. Because of this design, it is able to pick up speech in loud environments, such as on a motorcycle or in a night club, where other types of microphones would not function well because the speech would be drowned out by background noise. This type of microphone is also able to pick up whispers and works well in an environment where one has to keep quiet while communicating with others at a distance, such as during a covert military operation. Throat microphones were also extensively used in World War II-era aircraft, and by German tank crews. [Wikipedia.]

    So, all the visiting team has to do is to equip their quarterback with a laryngophone and a digital radio transmitter (to avoid jamming), and the rest of team with digital radio receivers and earphones in their helmets — then they can give the V sign (British version) to the opposing home team!

  • Darlene

    Excellent suggestion! Penn State should start looking into mechanisms to jam the signals now :)


    Jamming of radio signals can be circumvented by employing the technique of “frequency hopping” to rapidly switch the frequency of the transmitted energy, and receiving only that frequency during the receiving time window that is programmed into the receivers. This foils jammers which cannot detect this frequency switch quickly enough and switch their own jamming frequency accordingly during the receiving time window.


  • R-STEG

    Of course, while relocating fans to increase noise is perfectly legal and within the rules of NCAA athletics, I would tend to guess that equipping QB’s w/ a throat microphone, and the rest of the players w/ radio receivers just MIGHT be against the rules!!

  • Realist

    This move isn’t about increasing fan noise but about increasing revenue. It so happens that the student section used to be in very nice sideline seats. Demand for these seats far exceeded the price that the school charges the students for tickets. In order to rectify this disparity, the administration decided to move the students to cheaper seats and sell the more valuable seats to alumni at a much higher price. There is a reason why the move was announced months ago and this research was just recently released. This research was done interdependently of the move and is only being used as PR spin by the school.

  • Bill

    if not for revenue but for noise sake, is PSU admitting they are not good enough to win at home. They need an extra trick to help win. The student section put PSU stadium at the top of fan support. Making Beaver stadium the best place to be on a Saturday in college football… If this is just a play by the university to increase revenue then student ticket prices should be lowered drastically. What if students either didn’t show up in protest or were silent during the game…..hummmmm

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