During an AFC championship game in 2015, it was found that 11 of the 12 footballs being used were under-inflated compared to the league rules. During the NFL’s investigation, it was found that Tom Brady had a connection to the incident, and he was subsequently suspended for 4 games the following season. But this got me thinking, could the balls have actually just deflated on their own due to the poor weather conditions or was there a malicious act carried out by the Patriots and their quarterback.
The ESPN show Sports Science dove into this issue. They found that, if exposed to 10 degree temperatures for a hour, the PSI drops 2.5 PSI (13.5 PSI to 11 PSI). Although this proves that there is a relationship between PSI and temperature, it doesn’t quite answer the question becasue the PSI in the football had dropped from 12.5 PSI to 10.5 PSI in only a hour and a half, in temperatures of about 51 degrees.
But supporters have since surfaced, claiming that the Patriots are not in the wrong, claiming that it is possible for PSI to change in that way given the right conditions. Bill Belichick, head coach of the Patriots, had come out and claimed that there was no purposeful tampering with the inflation of the balls, and that it was simply the right conditions for the PSI to drop in the way that it did. And multiple scientists have come out in support of the team, saying that it is simple physics, if you have something in a warm area (locker room) and then move it to a cold area (the field) the air pressure of the balls would most definitely drop.
So with these multiple studies, the best we can do is question. There are legitimate arguments on both sides, and the only people that know what actually happened are the people that were directly involved. We can conclude that temperature does affect the air pressure, but we are left uncertain if it can affect the air pressure in the way that it supposedly did during the AFC Championship game.