Overrating Bruins, Underrating Badgers: Media, Bias, and College Basketball

By Daniel Hawkins, Andrew Lindner, Ryan Larson and Jonathan Santo.

Published by Journal of Sports Management and Commercialization

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Published Online: December 11, 2015 $US5.00

Why are some teams perennial darlings of sports journalists while other talented squads get overlooked? Each week during the NCAA basketball season, the Associated Press releases a ranked poll of the top 25 teams. By comparing the preseason and postseason rankings, we construct a measure of how much sports journalists who respond to the poll overrate (or underrate) college teams relative to their actual performance. Using this metric for the 115 NCAA schools that have appeared at least once in the opening or final AP poll in the last 25 years, we examine a range of institutional characteristics that may predict overrating or underrating by members of the sports media. A multilevel analysis reveals that recent performance in the NCAA tournament and the perceived quality of the most recent recruiting class are the strongest predictors of being consistently overrated. While no institutional characteristics had direct effects, the effect of tournament performance on overrating is greater for teams that have historically had fewer coaches and compete in a “power” conference, and for national research institutions with larger student bodies. Our findings have implications for understanding how complex decisions are made within a conservative social institution (the media) and suggest that some schools may receive advantages in media exposure and financial opportunity.

Keywords: Commercialism, Media, Sociology, Basketball, Colleges, Bias, Rankings, Sports Journalism

Journal of Sports Management and Commercialization, Volume 6, Issue 3, November 2015, pp.11-26. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Published Online: December 11, 2015 (Article: Electronic (PDF File; 509.684KB)).

Dr. Daniel Hawkins

Associate Professor, Department of Sociology & Anthropology, University of Nebraska Omaha, Omaha, Nebraska, USA

Dr. Andrew Lindner

Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology, Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, New York, USA

Ryan Larson

Department of Sociology, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA