Friday Faculty Focus: Daniel Hawkins


June 9th, 2017

Dr. Daniel Hawkins poses for a photo. (Photo by Brandon McDermott)

Omaha, NE – This week on Friday Faculty Focus, KVNO’s Brandon McDermott speaks with Dr. Daniel Hawkins, Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

Brandon: Dr. Daniel Hawkins, thanks for coming on the show.

Dr. Hawkins: Thank you.

Brandon: You’re working on a lot when it comes to your scholarly work within the realm or scope of sociology. I’d like to talk a little bit about one of the journal articles that you’ve recently put together — Media Bias in College Basketball. To quote directly from your abstract: “Why are some teams perennial darlings of sports journalists, while other talented squads get overlooked?

Dr. Hawkins: This research was somewhat inspired by me going to college at the University Wisconsin-Madison, who at the time had a decent basketball team, but what I started noticing in my four years there is that they always did better than the quote, unquote experts predicted. They always performed better than where they were ranked, or they were hardly ever ranked in the AP or coaches poll at the beginning of the year.

So, we thought we’d do a more systematic empirical study on that and what we found is the biggest predictor of a team being what we call “overrated” — they often finished lower in the polls at the end of the year than they started at the beginning of the year — the biggest predictor of that was actually how well they did in the prior year’s NCAA tournament. So if they made a good run maybe to the Sweet Sixteen or the Elite Eight, it was the AP poll, so this is journalists covering the teams assuming they’d be good again next year.

Even though we know how much random luck there is in something like it an NCAA tournament where it’s one game and you could be out or you could move on. The second biggest predictor or factor associated with that was how high their recruiting class was ranked — so the incoming freshman for five-star or four-star recruits or whatever they might be. So, when the recruits were highly rated, those journalists covering the teams assumed they’d come in and contribute right away and that team would be very good. But in fact, they did less well than they were predicted to.

Brandon: Kind of moving on here, another study you worked on called “Globalization Culture Wars and Soccer,” you looked at culture wars looking at attitudes toward soccer with their attitudes about globalization or better predictors of soccer sentiment than social class, political ideology or other social characteristics. Can you talk about your work there and some of your findings?

Dr. Hawkins:  That study was inspired by a book written by journalist named Franklin Foer who put out a book called, “How Soccer Explains the World” and it’s kind of a series of chapters or vignettes about how you can relate things in the world of soccer to bigger political or cultural happenings. The last chapter of the book is the one that we found the most interesting. He’s really asking the question why compared to basically all the other countries in the world is America not as interested in soccer? What’s the driving force behind that?

It’s (soccer) called The World Sport but it’s the fourth, fifth or sixth favorite sport here in the United States. So what was behind that? He makes the argument that actually Americans are pretty fearful of globalization. There is the idea of American exceptionalism — we do things differently here — if that’s the world sport, it’s not our sport. We have other things that we care about. But, he made an argument that it’s not just related to the world of sports, but it’s related to cultural globalization, “how do we feel about immigrants coming into our country?” Political globalization, like “how do we feel about places like the United Nations or the World Court having any sort of say over our business?” Even economic globalization, like “how do we feel about jobs being shipped away?”

So we ask questions on all those kinds of globalization, then we ask people questions about how they feel about soccer — Do they watch it — Do they enjoy it? — Do they have their kids play it? We found that the strongest predictor of people, so the people who disliked soccer the most were those who were most fearful of immigrants. That was the top driver. It was above their education levels, their age or their political affiliation. For people who were fearful or did not feel that immigrants added much to American culture — they were the people who also wanted nothing to do with soccer.

Brandon: Dr. Daniel Hawkins, thanks again for joining me.

Dr. Hawkins: Thank you.

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