Here’s why college footballs have stripes!

why do college footballs have stripes

Anybody who has watched college football and an NFL game has likely noticed that football is different. We will explain why the college ball has stripes. 

College footballs have stripes because they were initially designed when there was no lighting for night games. It made the football easier to see and provided better visibility, and colleges have never changed the ball since. Players have also stated it’s easier to catch a ball with stripes.

We have gathered information from various player interviews, league handbooks, and personal experience to understand why college footballs have stripes. We will explain what we know in detail below.  

Why Do College Footballs Have Stripes? 

College footballs have stripes to distinguish them from high school and professional footballs. Both high school and college footballs have stripes, while the NFL balls do not. 

First and foremost, the stripes on a football help the players and officials identify the ball easily. The design was originally created for visibility during night games because it lacked reliable outdoor lighting. 

The ball is constantly being passed, thrown, kicked, and moved around the field during a game. The stripes made it easier for players to see the ball and track its movement, which is especially important when trying to catch a pass or make a tackle.

While some think this isn’t relevant today because of the advanced lighting and designs in college stadiums, players still note the benefits of a college football

The stripes on a college football can also be a matter of tradition. The original design of the college football was many years in the early 1900s, and there has never been a decision to change the design.

What Else Is Different About College Footballs?

College footballs have many more differences besides the presence of stripes compared to pro balls used in the NFL. 

The main differences between college and NFL footballs are their size, weight, pressure, leather quality, colors, and logos. We’ll explain each below. 

Dimensions & Size

College footballs are typically slightly smaller than NFL footballs. The circumference of a college football is roughly 20-3/4 inches to 21-1/4 inches in diameter, while the NFL ball is 21 inches to 21-1/4 inches. 

Both the NFL and college use a football that is also 11 to 11 1/4 inches in length and 7 inches in width. The size difference is not much but is noticeable enough though it’s only about 1-2 inches in diameter. 


College footballs are typically slightly lighter than NFL footballs. NCAA footballs must weigh between 14 and 15 ounces, while NFL footballs will weigh between 14 and 16 ounces depending on a few factors. 

Most people can feel the difference between an NFL and college football without looking. It feels slightly larger and heavier because of the leather, PSI, and overall sizing. 

why do college footballs have stripes

PSI Levels

College footballs must be inflated to a pressure of at least 12.5, while NFL footballs must be inflated to a pressure of 12.5 to 13.5 psi.

Typically, the ball in the NFL is at least 13.0 PSI, but it can fluctuate during the game, especially in cold weather. The rules on PSI are much stricter in the NFL compared to college too. 

Logos & Colors

College footballs typically have logos or markings specific to the school or conference, while NFL footballs have a consistent design with the NFL logo.

As we have mentioned, the college ball also has two 1-inch stripes located 3 to 3.25 inches from either end of the ball. This also gives the ball a significantly different look while throwing and catching it. 


NFL footballs are made from a higher-quality leather than college footballs. NFL footballs are made from cowhide leather, while college footballs are often made from synthetic materials or a lower grade of leather.

However, this only changes the feel of the ball a little. Quarterbacks must mostly adjust to the difference in size, and the difference in leather quality only adds to the durability of the ball but doesn’t change the feel much. 


While most quarterbacks won’t mention a problem with the leather, they will tell us one of the biggest adjustments from college to the NFL is the laces on the ball. 

In college, the laces are made of polyurethane, giving the QB a better grip on the ball. They are more distinct on the ball, so finding the right grip faster after it is snapped is easier than using an NFL ball. 


Lastly, we must mention the difference in consistency to compare a college football to a pro football. There are no changes in the NFL, and the same ball is used on every snap in every game.

It can vary a bit in college because the college rules enforce a sizing range. This is why some schools will use a ball slightly bigger than another, so the ball size could change when playing against different teams. 

Do High Schools Use The Same Football As College?

In the United States, high schools and colleges generally use the same size and type of football for their games. Both levels of play use a prolate spheroid-shaped ball that is made of leather or synthetic materials and is inflated with air.

The ball used in high school football is smaller than the ball used in college football, with a size of approximately 11 inches in length and 22 inches in circumference.

However, the size difference is insignificant, and the ball used in high school football is still similar in size and shape to the ball used in college football. This best prepares high school players for college too. 

Why Are College And NFL Footballs Different?

The footballs used in the National Football League (NFL) are slightly different in size and shape from those used in college football. But only a few people understand why, so we will explain below.

why do college footballs have stripes

College Football Is Older Than The NFL

College football was the first league to play the sport, and the NFL was founded after college football became popular. In the olden days of American football, there was no lighting, so the NCAA developed a football with stripes for better visibility. 

Initially, the NFL used the same ball, and at one point, they even used an all-white ball with black stripes. Once the game advanced, the NFL decided to change, but college kept everything the same. 

Different Skill Levels

In the NFL, the most skilled college athletes are playing, and a change in a ball’s shape, size, and look increases the difficulty. These players have more skills than college players, which is why they use a different football. 

Stricter Rules

One reason is that the balls used in the NFL are specifically designed to meet the requirements of the league’s rulebook, which sets specific standards for the size and shape of the ball. 

Another reason is that the balls used in the NFL may be of higher quality, as they are used in a professional league and are subject to stricter regulations and testing. The NCAA has more relaxed policies around equipment and the footballs used. 

why do college footballs have stripes

Key Takeaways

  • The primary reason why college footballs have stripes is because it increases the ball’s visibility and makes it easier to catch for a receiver. 
  • College and NFL have different balls because college football is older than the NFL, the players have different skill levels, and the NFL has stricter rules. 
  • Other differences between a college and NFL football include the size, weight, pressure, leather quality, colors, logos, laces, and consistency.