Deflate Gate From A College Perspective

One of the interesting news items coming out of New England's 45-7 win over the Indianapolis Colts to earn the AFC crown and trip to Super Bowl XLIX on Feb. 1 was the revelation or accusation that started on an Indianapolis television station that the game balls used by the Patriots in the rainy conditions were deflated below the minimum to provide extra grip fro quarterback Tom Brady.

"We'll cooperate fully with whatever the league wants us, whatever questions they ask us," New England coacgh Bill Belichick said. "I didn't know anything about it until this morning," he added during a conference call with reporters.

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady called the suggestion “ridiculous” during his weekly Monday morning call with WEEI radio in Boston. "I think I've heard it all at this point ... it's ridiculous," the three-time Super Bowl winning and now six-time Super Bowl participating quarterback said. "I don't even respond to stuff like this."

The way it works is before games each team submits 12 footballs that are checked and then kept by the officials. They are inflated to between 12.5 and 13.5 pounds per inch and weigh 14-15 ounces. The teams also submit six balls each that are used only for kicking situations. All balls are marked and kept by officials and game management personnel.

We checked with Oklahoma State head football equipment manager Matt "Chief" Davis and he said the college game is similar in procedure.

"We get our game balls in and typically if it is a good weather day then I will only turn in six (balls)," Davis explained of the procedure in the Big 12 and with Oklahoma State non-conference games as well. "So there will only be three balls on each sideline for my ball boys.

"Now if it is a rain game I will turn in 12 to 15 footballs and that way if it rains then they can replace the wet balls with dry ones from their (official's) locker room at halftime. The process starts with getting the game balls ready and then two to two and half hours before the game I will send my student managers over to the official's locker room with the game balls. We also have to provide an air pump, an air gauge, and glycerin that you put on the needle when you inflate the balls. The officials check all the footballs and then they bring them out at kickoff."

Davis said he does check with the Oklahoma State quarterbacks at the start of the season as they will go through footballs and pick out ones they like and they will only be used for games. Davis admits that even though Nike makes all of the footballs OSU has they are all a little different.

"Yeah, what we'll do is during two-a-days we'll bring in our top quarterbacks and let them throw those footballs and the starter will make the decision after we've broken them in, got the red off of them, and brushed them," Davis said going step by step. "We'll condition the balls and them once those footballs are designated then they go in a bag and they don't come out of this equipment room here until game day."

Now as for the balls being inflated to the proper level and weight, Davis says that can be manipulated a little as there is that legal variance between 12.5 and 13 pounds per square inch at the college level. He said back in the day, Cowboys quarterback Bobby Reid liked the football inflated as hard as possible. That is why Davis got into a discussion with an officiating crew during a road game in Houston. The footballs suddenly came back in the game and were deflated. Davis told the officials he was going to add air because the footballs were deflated below the legal amount.

Davis also admits that OSU has had quarterbacks that had smaller hands and preferred a football that was not as hard as a rock, maybe a little soft.

"You deflate the football a little bit and they can grip it better and throw it better," Davis said. "It's also easier to catch. I'm not going to say it hasn't happened at Oklahoma State. It's not very hard, all you have to do is have a ball needle in your pocket and take a little air out. Of course, you have the integrity of the game and all of that. The rule is in the NCAA is they have to be 12.5 to 13 pounds of pressure. There is a little leeway."


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