During Saturday's impromptu meeting with reporters, Bill Belichick said more than once that he wasn't a scientist. But he sure sounded like someone who had been buried in his lab conducting experiments when detailing measures he and members of his staff took to simulate the team's steps to prepare game balls.
Their conclusion was that part of their preparation process -- perhaps the way they rub down the balls to get them to the preferred texture -- raises the air pressure inside the balls, findings a real “science guy” called into question (see video above).
“We simulated a game-day situation in terms of the preparation of the footballs and where the balls [were] at various [points] in the day or night, as the case was Sunday,” Belichick said Saturday. “I would say that our preparation process for the footballs is what we do -- I can’t speak for anybody else, it’s what we do -- and that [preparation] process we have found raises the PSI approximately 1 pound [per square inch]. That process of creating a tackiness, a texture, the right feel, whatever that feel is, a sensation for the quarterback, that process elevates the PSI approximately 1 pound [per square inch] based on what our study showed, which was multiple footballs, multiple examples in the process as we would do for a game. It’s not one football.
“Now, we all know that air pressure is a function of the atmospheric conditions, it’s a function of that. So, if there’s activity in the ball relative to the rubbing process, I think that explains why when we gave them to the officials and the officials put it at 12.5 [PSI] if that’s in fact what they did, that once the ball reached its equilibrium state, it probably was closer to 11.5 [PSI]. ... So the atmospheric conditions as well as the true equilibrium of the football is critical to the measurement.”
Asked further about his research, Belichick invited others to replicate his experiment.
“The situation is the preparation of the ball caused the ball to I would say be artificially high in PSI when it was set at the regulated level and it reached its equilibrium at some point later on, an hour or two hours into the game whatever it was,” he said. “That level was below what it was set in this climatic condition. I think that’s exactly what happened. And I think anybody that wants to do those experiments should go ahead and do them themselves. Don’t take my word for it. I’m telling you, we are trying to get to an answer to this and that’s what we have.”
Appearing on “Good Morning America,” Bill Nye “The Science Guy” expressed skepticism, saying Belichick's explanation didn't make any sense.
“Rubbing the football, I don't think you can change the pressure,” Nye said. “To really change the pressure, you need one of these -- the inflation needle.”
Then again, Nye, a longtime resident of Seattle, closed his segment on GMA with a resounding “Go Seahawks.”
Meanwhile, HeadSmart Labs in Pittsburgh conducted a study that indicated the pressure in the footballs used in the AFC Championship Game could have dropped 1.95 PSI from weather and field conditions alone.
HeadSmart said it tested 12 new footballs that were inflated to 12.5 PSI in a 75 degree room to imitate the indoor conditions where the referees would have tested the footballs 2 hours
and 15 minutes before kickoff. The footballs were then moved to a 50-degree environment
to simulate the temperatures that were experienced throughout the game and were dampened to replicate the rainy conditions.
“Out of the 12 footballs we tested, we found that on average, footballs dropped 1.8 PSI when being exposed to dropping temperatures and wet conditions,” the lab's report states.