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AEI research paper finds holes in Wells Report

A report from the American Enterprise Institute questions the reliability of the Wells Report findings about the pressure of the footballs used by Patriots quarterback Tom Brady in the AFC Championship game.Charles Krupa/AP

A third-party organization, one which has no ties to the National Football League or the New England Patriots, has produced a research paper which finds many holes in the scientific findings of the Wells Report.

The American Enterprise Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based, private, non-partisan, non-profit institution dedicated "to research and education on issues of government, politics, economics and social welfare," according to its website, did its own analysis of the information presented in the Wells Report, particularly in regards to the football measurements at halftime of the AFC Championship game.

The 16-page report poses two now-familiar questions when it comes to Deflategate: Did the Patriots' balls experience a larger pressure drop than the Colts' balls? and Can ambient temperature changes explain the pressure difference between the Patriots' and Colts' balls? It comes to four primary conclusions, and finds overall that the Wells Report is "deeply flawed," as two of the study's authors, Kevin A. Hassett and Stan A. Veuger, wrote in a New York Times op-ed piece.

"The Wells Report's main finding is that the Patriots balls declined in pressure more than the Colts balls did in the first half of their game, and that the decline is statistically significant," Hassett and Veuger wrote. "For the sake of argument, let's grant this finding for now. Even still, it alone does not prove misconduct.


"There are, after all, two possibilities. The first is that the Patriots balls declined too much. The second — overlooked by the Wells Report — is that the Colts balls declined too little."

Hassett, Veuger, and a third colleague, Joseph Sullivan, believe that it's more likely that the Colts' footballs declined too little than that New England's declined too much.

Looking at the data provided in the Wells Report, the AEI group believe the Patriots' footballs, as measured at halftime, declined by an expected amount, while the pressure of Indianapolis's footballs "was statistically significantly higher than expected."


The simple reason for this, overlooked in the Wells Report: Game officials measured all 11 of New England's footballs but only four of the Colts' because time was short.

"This implies that the Colts balls sat in the warm room where they were to be measured — and thus increased in pressure — for almost the entirety of halftime before being measured," they wrote.

There have been several scientists and others who have come to similar conclusions, but AEI's conclusions may carry some added weight. In 2012, during the Saints' Bountygate controversy, Hassett and Veuger did a statistical study that showed that New Orleans ranked 31 out of the 32 NFL teams when it came to causing injuries to opposing players during the first year of their alleged bounty program, in 2009, and there was no evidence to support that Saints players injured more players than the typical team for the 2009-11 seasons, when they were alleged to have had the bounty program.

AEI presented those findings to former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue, who heard the appeals of Saints players who had been suspended, and that analysis, in part, led to Tagliabue vacating the players' punishments.

However, commissioner Roger Goodell has appointed himself the arbitrator for Tom Brady's appeal hearing, not a third party. Brady's hearing is set to take place on June 23, possibly continued to June 25.


The full American Enterprise Institute report can be found at www.aei.org.

Shalise Manza Young can be reached at syoung@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @shalisemyoung.