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Truth is More Ridiculous than Fiction.
Posted Wednesday, September 1, 2004

by Bill Hogan


 
 

I heard a really sad story about a 20-year old sophomore enrolled in the finance school at Big Business University. The kid was a financial wizard. He had been projected to be the hottest commodity to hit Wall Street since Warren Buffett.

His success as an undergraduate stock analyst was unparalleled. His mock stock portfolio was the envy of financial tycoons from South Hampton to Palos Verdes. All the kid did was pick winners, and he couldn't wait to get out in the "real world" to make his mark – not to mention a lot of money.

 
 


At the time, there were a couple of high-powered Wall Street firms that couldn't wait either. They had convinced the kid that he should leave school and become a professional stock analyst. After all, there was really nothing left for him to accomplish- or to prove - at BBU.

So the kid accepted a lucrative offer from a well respected brokerage firm; one that included a seven-figure signing bonus, a corner office and a key to the executive wash room. Since the contract required him to start right away, he blew off his final exams, put an offer in on a luxury condo and made significant upgrades to his wardrobe.

His time had come; the day he had dreamed of since he walked out of a movie theatre in 1987 consumed by the stirring words of his celluloid idol Gordon Gekko: "Greed is good." He knew that some day he would be a real Wall Street tycoon – not just play one on the big screen.

On his first day, he was welcomed with open arms. An attractive executive assistant escorted him to his corner office. The president of the company came by personally to greet him. At the time, he couldn't tell if he was in a high-rise office building or in heaven; and college seemed a lifetime away.

His supervisor took the kid to lunch, that first day, and when they got back, two men from the Security and Exchange Commission were waiting in the whiz kid's new corner office with bad news. Unbeknownst to the company – and the kid – there was a little-used federal law that prohibits second year college students from accepting a high-powered executive position in any company controlled by the SEC.

The company's response was "sorry kid, come back next year. And we'll need that seven-figure signing bonus back, see Martha in accounting on your way out." The young Wall Street guru was heartbroken as he laid the keys to the executive wash room on the attractive assistant's desk and left the building – never to be heard from again.

I know what you're thinking; the kid could have returned to BBU for his junior year and then do the Wall Street thing when he was old enough. Except the kid was attending college on a synchronized diving scholarship which was revoked the minute he accepted the seven-figure bonus. (If you're wondering, the key to the executive wash room was never an issue because there was no conclusive evidence that he ever went to the bathroom.)

This whole story sounds ridiculous, doesn't it? Like something I made up after chugging 16-ounce cans of Budweiser all day. There's no way anything like this could ever have happened in real life.

Well something eerily similar to my little tale did happen in real life. It happened to Southern Cal wide receiver Mike Williams last week when the NCAA turned down his request to be reinstated as a student-athlete at USC after a failed attempt to enter the NFL draft.

Williams left school, hired an agent and declared his intention to enter the draft AFTER a U.S. Court decided it was within his rights to do so. Then a higher court ruled that the NFL had the right to bar anyone less than three years out of high school from entering the draft.

Williams now is in limbo because the NCAA cannot see the special circumstances involved in this case. The NCAA chose to stick to the letter of the law regarding a person's academic eligibility and amateur status rather than see the unique position Williams is facing.

Clearly I made up the story about the financial phenom – BBU doesn't even have a men's synchronized diving team, they had to drop the program to comply with Title IX restrictions. Still, it isn't as absurd as the Mike Williams story.

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