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Thirty-Two Seconds to Go: A Case of Motivation, Locus of Control, and Self-Efficacy

Co Authors:

Andrew T. Johnson
Department of Psychology and Sociology
Park University

Amanda R. Laurenceau
Department of Psychology and Sociology
Park University


In the 1983 Big Eight Conference championship football game, Neil Harris deflected a pass with 32 seconds to go in a play that stopped the University of Oklahoma from scoring and clinched Nebraska's perfect 12-0 season, a third consecutive Big Eight conference title, and the Huskers' 22nd-straight victory. This was just one of many victories that Neil enjoyed later in life although his beginnings were humble, prompting him to say "When you come from nothing, there is no way to go except for up." What other factors account for his success? This case study applies the concepts of self-efficacy, locus of control, motivation, and Bronfenbrenner's Bioecological Systems theory to Harris' life and experiences to examine this question. This case study was originally developed for a junior-level psychology of sport course as a capstone piece integrating the main concepts of personality factors, motivation, goal-setting, social context, handling adversity/injury, and career termination, but could easily be adapted for a variety of other psychology or sociology courses.

  • Identify key personality factors of Neil Harris from the case study description referencing the International Personality Item Pool (
  • Identify aspects of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation pertaining to Neil's behavior.
  • Evaluate whether intrinsic or extrinsic motivation directed Neil's behavior.
  • Identify descriptions from the case study that pertain to Neil's self-efficacy.
  • Apply the concept of locus of control to Neil's experiences.
  • Apply Neil's case to the five different levels of Bronfenbrenner's Bioecological Systems Theory.
Keywords: Sport psychology; positive psychology; motivation; personality factors; adversity; self-efficacy; locus of control; bioecological systems theory; empowerment; football; African-American; Blind Side; Neil Harris; Kansas; Nebraska
Topical Area: N/A
Educational Level: Undergraduate lower division, Undergraduate upper division, Graduate
Formats: PDF
Type/Method: Analysis (Issues), Discussion
Language: English
Subject Headings: Psychology   Sociology   Sports Science  
Date Posted: 12/9/2014
Date Modified: N/A
Copyright: Copyright held by the National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science, University at Buffalo, State University of New York. Please see our usage guidelines, which outline our policy concerning permissible reproduction of this work.

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