The NFL called the Columbia University physics department to find out how atmospheric conditions could affect the air pressure in footballs.
In an effort to shed light on the controversy surrounding under-inflated footballs used by the New England Patriots in the first half of the AFC Championship Game against the Indianapolis Colts, the NFL sought out nerds instead of jocks for answers.
According to the New York Times, an attorney for the NFL, Lorin L. Reisner, a partner of the law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton and Garrison, indicated on Monday, “He would consult with a physicist on matters relating to gas physics.”
All of this comes in the aftermath of allegations accusing the Patriots of intentionally deflating game balls to seek an advantage. The organization has categorically denied such charges and hopes to prove that weather conditions or some other benign reason caused the deflation.
Saturday Patriots coach Bill Belichick gave a press conference using confusing science as to how the footballs may have deflated by halftime on Sunday when referees collected the balls in question.
Demonstrating that the NFL is taking the matter very seriously, the league’s top lawyer Jeff Pash and Ted Wells, a litigation specialist who authored the report on the Miami Dolphins bullying scandal last season, have been asked to lead the investigation of the deflated footballs fiasco. Moreover, they have contracted a sophisticated forensic investigative firm, Renaissance Associates, to help them evaluate pertinent electronic and video details.
A Facebook post by Brian Metzger, a physicist at Columbia, mentioned that the NFL contacted the Columbia physics department about the deflated balls issue.
Reisner followed an unanswered voice mail to the department, stating:
Just to confirm our call, we represent the N.F.L. in connection with the investigation into the footballs used during the A.F.C. championship game and would like to discuss engaging a professor of physics to consult on matters relating to gas physics and environmental impacts on inflated footballs. Please let me know whether there is a Columbia professor who may be interested in and appropriate for this assignment.
Although he didn’t reach out to Reisner, William Zajc, another Columbia physicist said he was tempted to respond just to correct all the misinformation disseminated on the topic in the media reports. The physicist gives little credence that atmospheric influences could deflate the footballs. “I think it’s more likely than not that they were manipulated,” Zajc said.
Significantly, after consulting Columbia physicists along with all of the discussion and accusations about how all the balls were deflated by two pounds in pressure, it turns out, according to one league source, that ten of the eleven footballs may have been deflated closer to one pound. NBC Sports’ ProFootballTalk noted that the NFL has not released the exact PSI measurements of the balls taken and calibrated at halftime.