Watch CBS News

The Science Behind 'DeflateGate'

WORCESTER (CBS) - Many Patriots fans are hoping there is a good explanation for the deflated footballs used in the AFC Championship. Like, maybe the weather, but, does science, prove or disprove that possibility?

We spent some time with scientists and football players at Worcester Polytechnic Institute to find out.

Read: DeflateGate Coverage

Coach Chris Robertson is the boss of the football field. "It might be easier to grip, but not necessarily easier to throw," Coach Robertson said of an under-inflated football.

WPI Football
WPI Football coach Chris Robertson (WBZ-TV)

And Professor Germano Iannacchione is the guru of physics.

They bring two angles of tech expertise to "DeflateGate" from WPI, where the professor argues that deflating a prolate spheroid made of leather, only on game day, "might" help your quarterback and receivers in the cold and rain.

"But you're just as likely, just because nobody has practiced it, to screw it up," Iannacchione said.

Some suggest that inflating the balls inside and then storing them outside might have triggered a uniform deflation of two PSI, a 16% drop.

Germano Iannacchione
WPI Physics Professor Germano Iannacchione (WBZ-TV)

But WBZ-TV Chief Meteorologist Eric Fisher says no way. "If you're filling it at 65 degrees in the tunnel, and you go outside and it's 50, that's not enough to account for this big of a difference," Fisher said.

Coach Robertson argues that two PSI is not enough to affect receivers at the pro level, but perhaps it would provide a better grip for a small handed QB.

"I can't imagine that [Tom] Brady has a hand that's small enough where it would matter," Robertson said.

"It works perfectly fine if all that mattered was a very simple grip of a ball," Iannacchione said laughing.

In fact, the professor says a deflated ball might well grip better in the middle, but worse toward the ends.

"For every time you could see it as an advantage, you could also think about how it could be a disadvantage," Iannacchione said.

In fact, many quarterbacks like more inflation.

WPI Football Coach Chris Robertson inflates a ball. (WBZ-TV)

The professor doubts two PSI was enough to downgrade the ball's aerodynamics -- and he suspects it only added to the randomness of an already quirky sport.

"When you think about the broader picture, you realize that that wasn't an advantage at all," Iannacchione said.

If it was cheating, the professor doesn't think it was a very effective method, despite the Patriots 45-7 win over the Colts in the AFC Championship.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.