MBA March Madness

by on March 20th, 2017

For those working on the admissions side, staffers are poring over thousands of applications to make R2 decisions. This is also the month that many applicants find their agony (the No from HBS) or their ecstasy (the Yes from Stanford with an unexpected scholarship offer!). For many current MBA students plans are being finalized regarding internships and full-time employment offers.

Business and basketball

When you go to a university that is world class in both business and basketball, you experience March Madness in all its glory! Some of the schools who fit into this category this year are Darden (Virginia), Fuqua (Duke), Kenan-Flagler (UNC), Anderson (UCLA), Mendoza (Notre Dame), Wisconsin and for the first time in the Men’s bracket Kellogg (Northwestern)! Evanston, Illinois is hosting five watch parties around town and Kellogg students, a generally happy group by nature, will no doubt be cheering loudly today as well. GSB (Stanford) also has some excitement in the Women’s NCAA bracket with a very strong team in contention. UNC, UCLA and Duke have double March Madness as they have strong teams in both the men’s and women’s tournaments.


One rivalry that stands out among these teams and crosses both basketball and academic lines is the battle of the blues between Duke and UNC and the possibility that they could meet yet again this year in the championship game. In both MBA programs, it is impossible to not be touched in some way by basketball. UNC Kenan-Flagler is practically next door neighbors to the “Dean Dome”, where all games are played. The UNC brand is big business as evidenced by Nike’s new partnership with UNC basketball legend Michael Jordan. There are a host of sports-related co-curricular initiatives and research at UNC that is handled by the Center of Sport Business, an affiliate of UNC’s Kenan Institute. Students can learn more about the business of sports by participating in programs such as the SPEIA Basketball Analytics Summit or the CSB-NBA case competition.

Basketball to MBA

One current Kenan-Flagler MBA student has even deeper basketball roots as Matthew Lyde-Cajuste (class of 2018) was a four-year member of Syracuse’s men’s basketball team from 2009-2013. He attended the January 16th game in Chapel Hill when UNC defeated Syracuse 85-68 and UNC men’s basketball coach Roy Williams notched his 800th career win. Lyde-Cajuste recounted that “it felt like forever ago and also yesterday when I saw one of my old teammates who is still playing for Syracuse.” Lyde-Cajuste has a new kind of March Madness as he is now preparing for his summer internship in New York City with Wells Fargo in their investment banking division. While it is unlikely that he can shed his orange pride so quickly, he mentioned that watching UNC basketball games with classmates at Pantana Bob’s or the Carolina Ale House can be “a vehicle for mutual bonding with other Kenan-Flagler students.”


Just 1o miles down Tobacco Road, Fuqua MBA students participate in the “Campout,” a wonderful bonding experience in the first weeks of the MBA program, for a chance to get their name in a raffle for season tickets to be Cameron Crazies at men’s basketball games. In the spirit of Team Fuqua, students form pacts to share tickets. A first year Fuqua student who was able to attend the February 9th showdown when Duke beat UNC 86-78 in Cameron Indoor Stadium called it “Such an awesome game. Made campout totally worth it!” And at Fuqua, Coach K regularly shares leadership and teamwork wisdom through his involvement with COLE (Center on Leadership and Ethics).


UCLA has a storied basketball tradition as well with Coach Wooden, aka the “Wizard of Westwood,” who won ten NCAA national championships in a 12-year period as head coach at UCLA. The principles of his “Pyramid of Success” where “being at your best when your best was needed” has implications not only for basketball but business and life as well. Each year UCLA Anderson hosts the John Wooden Global Leadership Awards to honor exceptional leadership.

Madness beyond the MBA

Regardless if this is a school’s first appearance or the school is a “regular” in March Madness, there is big excitement in having your university at the big dance. The camaraderie that having a winning sports team instills in students carries forward to the alumni community and makes it really easy to connect with alumni who were not in the program during your time—simply by a shared interest in the school’s outstanding basketball program. So when the tip offs begin today, cheer with your classmates and alums, make some new friends and maybe even some new connections for your professional career. Let the March Madness begin!!

If your March Madness includes thinking about applying to programs this fall, check out what you should be doing this month. (When you aren’t watching basketball, that is!) Perhaps at this time next year your NEW team will be heading to the big dance.

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