The NFL’s investigation into how 11 of 12 New England Patriot footballs were under-inflated during the first half of this year’s AFC championship game just got a little bit more elaborate.
According to The New York Times, the league has sought the input of Columbia University’s physics department to determine the cause of the controversy now commonly known as “Deflate-Gate.” The Times reports that attorneys for the NFL reached out specifically to “consult with a physicist on matters relating to gas physics.”
Patriots coach Bill Belichick has previously alluded to “atmospheric” conditions likely causing the under-inflation. Meanwhile, Fox Sports and NBC Sports have cited unnamed sources who claim that an unidentified attendant who took 24 game balls into a bathroom before the game is being eyed as a person of interest in the scandal. NBC News has not confirmed these reports. However, msnbc’s Rachel Maddow attempted to show on Tuesday whether it was possible to under-inflate 11 footballs in under two minutes – a staff member from her program was able to take air out of eight balls.
NFL rules require that footballs’ pressure stay within a certain range of pounds per square inch. It’s widely believed by football players and experts that an under-inflated ball is easier to grip and catch, especially in adverse weather conditions. The Patriots’ blowout victory over the Colts in the AFC championship took place during persistent rain.
The “Deflate-Gate” scandal has served as an embarrassing distraction for the Patriots as they prepare for their highly-anticipated Super Bowl match-up against the defending champion Seattle Seahawks on Sunday. Belichick has repeatedly denied any knowledge of the footballs being tampered with, as has Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, whose appearance before the press last week – in which, he declared “those balls were perfect” – has been mocked all over social media and on “Saturday Night Live.”
Patriots owner Robert Kraft has stood by his team and in a blistering statement Monday said he would demand an apology from the league if their currently ongoing investigation clears them of any wrongdoing. “I want to make it clear that I believe unconditionally that the New England Patriots have done nothing inappropriate in this process or in violation of NFL rules,” Kraft said.
Still, William Zajc, a scientist from Columbia’s physics department who confirmed the NFL’s overture to the Times, is skeptical.
“I think it’s more likely than not that [the footballs] were manipulated,” he said.