NCAA enforces strict football inspection policy

by Sports Editor Mike Ezekiel

The longest ongoing controversy in sports this year is the “deflategate” scandal. The National Football League’s New England Patriots allegedly tampered with footballs in the AFC Championship game Jan. 18.

As a result, quarterback Tom Brady received a four-game suspension from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell for his alleged role in the scandal. Judge Richard M. Berman lifted Brady’s suspension Sept. 3.

With the emergence of this story, questions arise about the processes a football goes through before and during any football game. Gulf South Conference referee Eddie Newell said footballs undergo a thorough inspection before each game.

“Prior to kickoff, both teams are supposed to supply us with a minimum of six footballs,” Newell said. “We go through and check to make sure they are legal according to the rules of the NCAA.”

Newell said the back judge is responsible for ball inspection. Each ball should read 12.5 to 13 on the air pressure gauge according to NCAA rules.

“Once we check them, we put the balls in a separate bag,” Newell said. “They are brought out when we come out just a few minutes prior to game time. When we give them to the ball boys, we tell them what we expect. We mark each ball and we know what they feel like. If one starts to feel flatter, we can throw it out.”

Newell said the NCAA puts a large amount of emphasis on the importance of football inspection.

“That is one of our requirements that we have,” he said. “If we didn’t carry out our routine and if something were to happen, the whole crew is brought in and talked to about it.”

UNA football manager Austin Yarbrough said he leaves the inspection process to the referees.

“We make sure the air is right in the balls,” Yarbrough said. “We take them to the officials to inspect them. They will make sure the air pressure is right. Once they get them we really don’t do anything else.”

Yarbrough said the managers use a ball brush to increase the grip on newer, slick footballs, which is legal according to NCAA rules, but do not tamper with the pound force per square inch (PSI) level.

“Once we get them back, we might rub them down to help get a good grip on it,” he said. “That helps wear the ball down a little bit.”

UNA quarterback Jacob Tucker said overinflated footballs make it harder to throw but he has no problem with the regulation standards.

“You can tell when a ball is overinflated,” Tucker said. “You never want a ball to be packed tight because it’s hard on the receivers.”

Tucker said he would prefer his ball to be at the minimum regulation pressure because it helps him find a better grip on the football.

“Every quarterback is different,” Tucker said. “I have smaller hands, so a ball that’s 12 (PSI) is more ideal for a guy like me. But I really couldn’t tell you the difference in a 12 and 14.”

Tucker said the thought of deflating a football to gain an advantage has never crossed his mind.

“I couldn’t tell you the difference between a regulation ball and one that’s not,” he said. “It’s something I’ve never thought about, I just throw the ball that’s in my hands.”

If a player, coach or member of the equipment staff were to tamper with a football intentionally, the result could be a fine or the loss of a job, according to NCAA regulations.