Penn State football needs a change. No, not that change! I will not argue for the replacement of the team's front man amidst this less-than-perfect season.
I will, instead, lobby for a scheme to improve the team's "12th man."
I agree that adjustments need to be made to the football program. So does the administration who, in a quest for greater home field advantage and ultimately more wins next year, has decided to move the student section to an end zone to maximize its auditory effect.
How could this seating reassignment affect future football success? The logic has an interesting history. Recently, a Penn State doctoral candidate in acoustics christened Beaver Stadium as the loudest stadium in the nation able to produce decibels at eardrum-damaging levels. So deafening is the ruckus from the "White House" that a visiting quarterback's voice evaporates 18 inches from his lips, leaving his teammates clueless to playcalling.
To take advantage of this, Penn State seeks to aim its most audible weapon, the student section, directly at the visiting team. There's only one problem with this strategy. It's predictable.
Beaver Stadium has always been loud. So is Michigan's "Big House." So is Ohio State's "Horseshoe." In fact, the Penn State football team pumps its own crowd noise into practice sessions to prepare for the volume in other stadiums. Other teams are known to do the same thing. They expect the noise.
They've anticipated it for years. While the T-shirt stating, "We decide when you hear the snap count" is accurate, it doesn't mean that better strategies to football success should not be explored.
Dare I call an audible - an audible that no one will hear? I suggest a "random act of silence." Rather than making teams uncomfortable through deafening sound, how about we make them uncomfortable with silent unemotional gazes, voiceless unblinking eyes, and creepy unflinching stares.
Don't think it will work? Psychologists have confirmed the "agonistic properties of the stare." Staring communicates threat and produces an increase in flight response. When someone stares at you, it makes you uncomfortable. It makes you act differently. It makes you want to run away.
Still unconvinced? Try this. Go find someone. Stare at them. Don't move. Don't say anything. Just stare at them. They will quickly start to squirm, to complain, and to seek relief from your gaze. They may even try to get away from you as quickly as possible. Multiply that affect by 115,000.
They'll never hear it coming. Picture one strategically scheduled day per year when the visiting team will enter Beaver Stadium expecting the deafening sounds of "me and 115,000 of my friends" droning "Zombie Nation."
Instead, they will be uncomfortably confronted with the apocalyptic silence of my friends and me simply staring at them like zombies.
As silly as my suggestion sounds, and while it's months before the student section is relocated for the "Glory of Old State," the desperate move to enhance the "12th man" to produce wins should be an indication of one thing:
The deafening silence accompanying questions about Penn State's coaching staff and recruiting practices - those core components of football success - will continue to linger in Happy Valley.
Hopsicker is a professor of kinesiology at Penn State Altoona.