Easy, tough choices in Dan Kelly’s CFO Bracket Challenge victory
Everyone who knows me knows I am a huge college basketball fan. While I enjoy the regular season, particularly University of Wisconsin and Big Ten Conference basketball, the NCAA men’s tournament always brings extra excitement.
Like many, I participate in various pools (all for fun, of course) for the tourney. This year I was asked to participate in USA Today’s CFO Bracket Challenge, sponsored by GE Capital. Why me? It could not have been based on prior performance in pools! It was because of relationships our Marketing team has developed, specifically one with USA Today.
As part of the CFO Bracket Challenge, USA Today ran a series of articles with me and other chief financial officers from companies around the country. The story angles were often about how sports and business intersect in so many ways, such as needing strong leaders, performing as teams and, ultimately, trying to win against the competition – to name a few.
While I was a little nervous to participate, as this included a published interview with me, the scarier thought was that my bracket picks and subsequent results would be made public. However, it was for a great cause. The winner of the challenge would receive $5,000 given to a charity of their choice.
So, I forged ahead.
Choosing a charity was easy – the Steve Stricker American Family Foundation. Started a year ago, the foundation is a partnership between one of our brand ambassadors, pro golfer Steve Stricker, and American Family. It supports organizations that help build strong families and healthy kids – an easy charity choice for me.
Then I had to fill out the bracket. This is where the hard choices began. And I also knew they were going to publish results after each weekend.
We all know there are upsets in the NCAA tournament, particularly in the first round. The difficult part is deciding which ones. Mercer over Duke? Didn’t get that one. However, I picked two No. 12 seeds over No. 5 seeds in the round of 64 and got both of those. That helped me get off to a good start with 15 of 16 on day one.
My Sweet 16 picks were all the favorites. I didn’t realize that until I had filled my bracket out and was analyzing it. But it was hard to justify (at the time) picking against any of the top four regional seeds. Of those top 16 I picked, 10 indeed made it that far, and I ended the first weekend in second place.
My Big Ten bias showed when projecting my Final Four. I had Wisconsin (of course) and Michigan State making it along with Florida – the No. 1 team in the country for much of the year – and Louisville. The Cardinals were a No. 4 seed but playing well at the end of the year, and they were experienced, having been last year’s NCAA champ. After the second weekend, I was in first place! On top of that, my beloved Badgers were in the Final Four.
As it turned out, the championship game pitted a No. 7 (Connecticut) vs. a No. 8 (Kentucky - ouch). I don’t think anyone picked that match-up! That’s what makes the tournament so exciting.
As for next year, if asked to defend my CFO Bracket Challenge title, two things will remain the same: The Steve Stricker American Family Foundation will be my charity of choice and Wisconsin will be in my Final Four!
Editor’s note: The Steve Stricker American Family Insurance Foundation recently donated $75,000 to support the Edgerton Community Outreach program’s renovation of its community center in downtown Edgerton, Wis., Edgerton Community Outreach provides programs and services to those in need, including food and housing assistance, with the goal of self-sufficiency.