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Penn State to pump up the volume in 2011

Penn State already boasts what I believe to be the Big Ten's best game atmosphere, and one of the most hostile for opposing teams.

Things are going to get even louder and less hospitable in 2011.

The raucous Penn State student section is being moved to the south end zone when the Beaver Stadium seating is reorganized for the 2011 season. The simple reasoning? It'll make a loud place even louder.

What's a little more complex -- and way over my head -- is the science behind the move. Penn State grad student Andrew Barnard spent time in recording sound noise around Beaver Stadium during games, comparing levels to what was happening during the game. He worked with Guido D'Elia, the director of branding and communications for Penn State football.

When the Penn State's Nittany Lions were on the offense the noise levels inside 107,282-seat Beaver Stadium reached 75 decibels on the field. That's about as loud as a car radio playing at a reasonable volume. But the noise skyrocketed to 110 decibels -- 50 times as loud -- when visiting teams were on offense, drowning out the calls of the quarterback and making last-minute adjustments at the line of scrimmage very difficult.

"For the visiting quarterback that would be like trying to have a conversation while standing next to a giant speaker at a rock concert," said Barnard.

Barnard also found that, not surprisingly, Penn State's student section made the most noise in the stadium. He then looked at what spots in the stadium could generate the most sound for those on the playing field.

He found that the Beaver Stadium design, with an upper deck behind the end zones, results in more noise from the higher-up seats than those closer to the field.

Barnard's computer model predicts that this relocation will quiet the east side of field slightly but increase the sound on the west side by almost 50 percent -- cutting the range of a quarterback's voice by another six inches and potentially causing more fall starts and penalty opportunities.

"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."

This is pretty interesting stuff, but I wonder how Penn State students will react. The student section currently is in what almost anyone would call a better place to watch a football game.

Are you willing to move just to create more noise in an already loud stadium?