Are our balls really bigger?

According to Wikipedia (I was able to verify the NFL ball size with official sources, but not the CFL size).

National Football League football is specified as; short circumference: 20 3/4 to 21 3/4 inches (527 to 540 mm), long circumference: 27 3/4 to 28 1/8 inches (705 to 714 mm).

Canadian Football League football is specified as; short circumference: 20 7/8 to 21 1/8 inches (530 to 537 mm), long circumference: 27 3/4 to 28 1/4 inches (705 to 718 mm).


The upper bound on the long circumference is bigger for the CFL, but the upper bound on the short circumference is actually smaller. The ranges overlap and the differences in the upper and lower bounds are small. Having bigger balls makes for funny slogans of questionable taste, but I'm wondering how much of a difference there really is.

I would guess that the manufacturers aim for the middle of the ranges, but even if the CFL used the biggest ball it could and the NFL used the smallest ball it could, the difference would be maybe a third to half of a centimetre in length and diameter. Admittedly, I haven't handled a lot of balls in my lifetime, but I'm surprised that anyone would notice the difference.

I read somewhere that there was a time when the CFL balls were noticeably bigger, but that was due to a manufacturing problem and the players didn't really like them. (Can't find the article back, though. Argh).

People keep repeating this like it's fact, but I'm skeptical.

hehehe, in English please? :lol:

I'm glad to hear that...

I want bigger bewbs.

In my opinion the NFL ball travels smoothe as far as passing lanes go? Just saying.......

The NFL, not having a white circle on the ball, let's the viewer think the ball is traveling smoothe and has a tight spril on it.

The Spalding J5V was the official game ball of the CFL until 1994 or 1995. It was a fatter ball than the NFL ball.

In 1994 or 1995, the CFL went to Wilson footballs and have since sourced the game balls from the same manufacturing plant in Ada, Ohio that produces the NFL game ball. The specifications are nearly identical for size and weight.

There are only a few minor differences. These include the obvious stripes and markings but the CFL ball also has a synthetic lace with a dimpled texture where the NFL ball retains a traditional leather lace with a smooth texture.

The "Our Balls are Bigger" t-shirts date back to when the Spalding J5V was the official game ball of the CFL. These were never replaced by a "Our Balls are Now Nearly the Same Except for what Amounts to Variability in the Manufacturing Process" t-shirt. Hence there is a common misconception that our balls are still bigger when they're actually the same.

The Spalding J5V was the official game ball of the CFL until 1994 or 1995. It was a fatter ball than the NFL ball.

In 1994 or 1995, the CFL went to Wilson footballs and have since sourced the game balls from the same manufacturing plant in Ada, Ohio that produces the NFL game ball. The specifications are nearly identical for size and weight.

There are only a few minor differences. These include the obvious stripes and markings but the CFL ball also has a synthetic lace with a dimpled texture where the NFL ball retains a traditional leather lace with a smooth texture.

The “Our Balls are Bigger” t-shirts date back to when the Spalding J5V was the official game ball of the CFL. These were never replaced by a “Our Balls are Now Nearly the Same Except for what Amounts to Variability in the Manufacturing Process” t-shirt. Hence there is a common misconception that our balls are still bigger when they’re actually the same.

"Our Balls are Now Nearly the Same Except for what Amounts to Variability in the Manufacturing Process" has a certain ironic ring to it, but "Shrunken balls since 1995" would fit better on a t-shirt.

Denoting early Canadian football/rugby, the game balls were made without the dual stripes near each polar tip...

Anyone know when these stripes were implemented, and why?

I'm thinking it was for ease of visual for the spectators, similar to the FoxTrax hockey puck (although the latter was a poor idea)

I think it was to help the kickers hit the ball in the right spot. Between the lines son, between the lines.

I believe (not 100% sure) that the white stripes were at one time the point of measurement for first downs. They now use the point of the ball as the measuring point. The stripe is just there for tradition I would think.

This is the "article" I was referring to

http://cfldb.ca/faq/equipment/

According to the article, what I said in the quoted part from the OP above is somewhat incorrect. The balls were not bigger, but they varied too much in size and did not hold their shape very well. It also says that the change from a bigger ball to a more-or-less NFL sized ball took place in the mid 80s, not the mid 90s.

Here are a few newspaper clippings from the mid-1980s

From June 1985
There is a problem with the footballs in the Canadian Football League. Some of the players don't like them. They say they're hard to hold, hard to throw and too fat.
The CFL has been using Spalding footballs since the turn of the century. Two years ago, Spalding Canada closed its plant in Brantford, Ont., but the small firm of H.D. Brown Enterprises Ltd. of St. George, Ont., continues to supply the CFL with footballs under the Spalding name.
Last season, fumbles in the CFL were up by 40 per cent and some players were convinced it was because the new balls were too slippery.

From January 1986
Mitchell said the league has signed a three-year agreement with Spalding Canada that will see the Spalding J5V, in modified form, continue as the league's official football. The ball will remain the same length but will be slightly smaller in circumference, the length and width of the laces will be increased and the leather will change, providing higher pebbles for a better grip and feel.

From July 1986
The size of the CFL football has changed this year; how many times has this happened previously?
The CFL has been using the same Spalding model J5V football as far back as the 1958 Grey Cup (Incidentally won by Winnipeg). Yet last year Spalding shipped a wider football (the length had remained constant) to all CFL clubs and many players complained that the ball was too hard to hold. This year the CFL had Spalding narrow the balls diameter close to the size used to the U.S. College ranks while again keeping the same length.

The gist of all this is that the CFL football hasn't changed much since 1958. The problems started in 1984 after Spalding closed its Brantford plant. In 1985, Spalding arbitrarily changed the size of the football making it wider than before. Spalding gave the CFL the option to return to the smaller ball when the second shipment of footballs was delivered at mid-season but the CFL chose to complete the 1985 season with the bigger balls.
The specifications of the J5V football as published in the CFL rulebook in 1986 are exactly the same as the specifications of the Wilson football as published in the 2011 CFL rulebook. The Spalding J5V tended to be more inconsistent in shape and size with the size often at the higher end of the specifications.

For reference - The 1985 ball specifications
Pressure - 12.5 to 13.5 psi
Circumference - Long axis - 28 to 28.5 inches
Circumference - Short axis - 21 1/8 to 21 3/8 inches
Length - Long axis - 11 to 11 1/4 inches
Weight - 14 to 15 ounces

1986-2011 Specifications (J5V & Wilson)
Pressure - 12.5 to 13.5 psi
Circumference - Long axis - 27 3/4 to 28 1/4 inches
Circumference - Short axis - 20 7/8 to 21 1/8 inches
Length - Long axis - 11 to 11 1/4 inches
Weight - 14 to 15 ounces

great read and info Stats_Man! :thup:

On a separate but related question, I always had the impression that the nfl balls appear to behave like they are made of rubber rather than leather. I just have the impression that they are more "bouncy" all the time. Like a nerf ball or something. Am I alone in this perception??

Trying to do research however it is tough to get the answer. From what I’ve read, the year maybe around 1958 and thus the stripes were put on the footballs to make it easier to see the ball in flight at night; pass plays to the receiver.

Great info! Thanks!

If I'm not mistaken they still use the stripes for spotting the ball after a chain measurement

The white strips I always thought were there because in the summer when the grass is green it is easy to see a brown leather ball. But in the fall when the grass turns brown, it made the brown ball hard to see so the white strips were added.