In the Loyola men’s basketball team’s 62-50 win over Illinois State Sunday, redshirt junior forward Aher Uguak turned the ball over with 9:55 left in the first half. Not even two seconds later, head coach Porter Moser lost his jacket.
It’s not unique to Moser, but the “jacket toss” has become something of a trademark at Loyola basketball games, getting mentioned during TV broadcasts and on Twitter accounts.
Moser’s jacket toss has gained an almost myth-like status in Rambler fanhood, but there’s science behind that myth.
Loyola professors had multiple theories as to why the jacket came off: one said it could be a bodily response, another said it’s a subconscious response to emotions. One also said the distance the jacket travels could also show Moser’s level of anger.
More often than not, the jacket finds itself on the floor after a call Moser didn’t like or a mistake from one of his players. While it may seem like a fit of rage sparks the toss, Loyola physics professor Brian Cannon has a different theory: maybe the loss of the jacket just means Moser gets too hot during games.
“During the game, he’s probably getting animated a lot,” Cannon said. “A lot of emotions are building up and his body temperature is going to start increasing. The jacket is going to act as an insulator and trap that energy or heat inside of him.”
The act of taking the jacket off could be a subconscious response to Moser lowering his body temperature down to keep from sweating, according to Cannon. He said Moser could be physically uncomfortable and his body is telling him to change something — hence the jacket toss.
Moser himself said in the moment, he often doesn’t realize when he takes the jacket off or puts it back on — usually if the jacket is off in the first half, it’ll be back on at the beginning of the second. He also said even though people comment on it, his focus toward the game doesn’t stray.
“I’m so with my head in the sand preparing for every game I don’t even know,” Moser said. “I don’t know what’s being said. I’m just so in the moment with these guys.”
While Cannon sees the jacket toss as a bodily response, it could also be mental, starting in the brain.
Loyola psychology professor Scott Leon said Moser likely acts on the subconscious level when he loses the jacket — but he can’t get inside Moser’s head to be sure.
The brain can only handle so much in one moment, according to Leon. Because Moser can get so passionate about the play, his emotions may become so intense that they overshadow the frontal lobe activity, the part of the brain that controls emotional expression, problem solving and memory.
“When we’re not aware of the emotions we’re having, it usually suggests a very intense emotion that’s sort of dampening our awareness,” Leon said. “When you are focused intently on something and it’s garnering all your cognitive resources, you don’t have any cognitive resources left over to focus on other things.”
It’s hard to determine whether the jacket toss is a physical response, psychological response or both. Either way, it’s become a key element to the fan experience in Gentile Arena.
Loyola first-year finance and business administration major Jack Armanini has only attended a couple games, but even he knows how iconic the jacket toss is in Gentile.
“Whenever that jacket comes off, it’s game time,” Armanini, 19, said. “It’s electric. I’m a freshman, so I haven’t gotten to see it many times, but it always means it’s time to go. It’s serious business.”
Even the players are aware of it. Both Kennedy and former Rambler Clayton Custer said that it’s a sign to how Moser is feeling about a game — usually meaning they did something wrong and Moser’s angry.
Kennedy laughed when the subject was brought up and interrupted Moser to say he knows he’s sometimes the reason the jacket has come off.
“I’m very aware,” Kennedy said. “I make a mistake, I look over, I see the jacket came off. … When that jacket comes off, that means it’s time to get down to business.”
Moser was surprised at Kennedy’s focus on the jacket, even joking that he’d take it off the next time Kennedy does something well.
Cannon said the players probably use it to gauge Moser’s mood and explained it takes a certain amount of energy to throw the jacket and the more energy he uses to throw the jacket, the greater the distance.
“If he throws it a long ways, he’s probably more anxious or tense about the situation than maybe if he just tosses it gently to the side,” Cannon said. “It would have taken less energy to just throw the jacket a small distance.”
While sometimes the jacket ends up on the floor, other times it ends up on someone’s lap. More recently, the managers of Loyola’s team have taken a notice of it and are prepared to pick up the jacket.
Custer said when he was moonlighting as a coach for a few games in November, there were a couple times the jacket came toward him.
“I thought he was going to throw it on me,” Custer said. “But he took it off but then a manager came from behind and was waiting there for it. Porter actually noticed and just took it off and handed it to him.”
The fact that it’s sometimes thrown at people raised an eyebrow for Leon. He speculated it could be a subconscious form of Moser asserting his title as alpha male on the team. He’s the coach, he’s in charge.
To Leon, it’s a classic tale of dominance and submission — he’s showing his dominance by tossing the jacket on someone.
“If you’re taking your jacket and you’re throwing it … there’s a dominance aspect to this because it’s basically you’re pushing your jacket into someone else’s space … like the alpha male you’re saying your space is my space,” Leon said.
While he said that’s probably not Moser’s intention, it’s one way to explain the reasoning for the jacket toss.
Whether it’s to assert dominance or to cool off, it’s become a staple in Gentile. Fans look forward to the jacket toss and try and guess when it’s going to happen.
Junior sociology major Francesca Spizzo has a theory that it’s actually part of Moser’s playbook.
“When Porter takes his jacket off, it’s a secret signal … like a play … because he doesn’t take his jacket off every single game,” Spizzo said. “I think there’s a pattern to it. I’m positive that there is a meaning to it.”
First-year sports management and information systems major Cole Janssen said when Moser throws the jacket, the fans “love it.”
“The players know that he means business,” Janssen, 18, said. “We’re ready to go. The players are ready to go. You know it’s game time at that point.”