Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Holy Cross "Mafia"

I came across an article this morning by Curtis Eichelberger, who writes for, about the fabulous alumni network the University of Pennsylvania football program has with the current players. The dedication Quaker alumni have to their current football players is something I believe that the Holy Cross Gridiron Leadership Council has emulated. The "90-Wide" Mentoring Program has been a great success thus far, and my personal mentor, Lee Heffernan, has provided me with worthwhile career advice and strategies that I would not have otherwise gained. As great as the Career Planning is at Holy Cross, I have found the mentoring program to be an invaluable outlet as I near the "real world" after college.

The part of the article that caught my attention the "mafia" aspect of the organization. Although the notion of a mafia may connote illegal practices and business, everyone looks out for each other's back when in the mafia. I believe that through the HCGLC, a "mafia" can and will develop amongst the alumni and trickle down into the current players in the program. 

Ivy League Football 'Mafia' Gives Wall Street a Talent Pipeline 

By Curtis Eichelberger

University of Pennsylvania defensive back Josh Powers may have a better opportunity than playing for college football’s national championship: a six- figure Wall Street salary upon graduation.
Powers, a senior at the Philadelphia-based school, was able to use contacts on Penn’s athletic board to land internships at two financial firms.
“I have a job opportunity that the top, top percentile of applicants would give their right arm to have,” Powers said in an interview. “I’ve been blessed with a fantastic opportunity.”
Penn’s athletic board of overseers includes George Weiss, founder of the George Weiss Associates Inc. hedge fund in Hartford, Connecticut; Robert Wolf, chairman and chief executive officer of UBS Group Americas in Stamford, Connecticut; and Mark Werner, the former JP Morgan Securities Inc. vice chairman who is co-founder and CEO ofPierpont Securities LLC, also in Stamford.
Having that kind of board helps the Quakers land better players, coach Al Bagnoli, who led the team to the Ivy League championship last season, said in a telephone interview from the school’s campus.
“We call them our alumni mafia,” Bagnoli said. “Everyone looks out for one another. It’s a very close group.”
The school, founded by Ben Franklin, has an undergraduate enrollment of 10,300 full-time students.
Summer Internships
Ivy League athletes often receive internships from executives involved with their school sports programs, while others use alumni for references or to gain insights into a company’s needs. Powers is one of dozens of student-athletes who landed summer internships with financial firms.
New York’s Columbia University formally recognized the importance of tapping into networks in 2006 by appointingKimberly Curry, 36, as the first full-time director of career development for athletics in the Ivy League.
Curry holds so-called etiquette dinners where student- athletes are taught how to make small talk in a formal dinner setting. She schedules mock interviews, sets up talks by local business leaders and arranges for athletics alumni to help students by reviewing resumes, providing advice and making introductions.
Few Sporting Chances
Most college athletes aren’t going to make a living with their sports, especially those from the Ivy League, which doesn’t award athletic scholarships. For example, about 65,000 student-athletes played college football last season, while National Football League teams had 334 rookie, or first-year players, on their 2010-2011 season-opening rosters, according to the league. None were from the Ivy League, which comprises eight of the top-ranked schools in the U.S.
There were five Ivy players on NFL rosters when the season started: center Matt Birk (Harvard, Baltimore Ravens), defensive tackle Desmond Bryant (Harvard, Oakland Raiders), quarterbackRyan Fitzpatrick (Harvard, Buffalo Bills), linebacker Zak DeOssie (Brown University, New York Giants) and guard Kevin Boothe (Cornell University, New York Giants), who is on the physically unable to perform list with a torn pectoral muscle.
Powers, the son of an accountant and high-school secretary in Fishers, Indiana, has a 3.42 grade-point average as a finance major at Penn’s Wharton School, ranked No. 4 among U.S. undergraduate business schools this year by Bloomberg Businessweek. He interned at Wolf’s and Weiss’s firms the past two years.
Powers, who started buying stocks with his allowance in high school, researched companies, built financial models and made trade suggestions based on his research at Weiss Associates.
“He did phenomenally well,” Weiss said. “He’s smart and they told me he was real aggressive. I said, ‘How can an analyst be aggressive?’ They said, ‘He is.’”
$80 Million Donations
Weiss, 67, has contributed more than $80 million to Penn, according to the school, including $20 million to recruit and fund professorships, $14 million for undergraduate scholarships and $10 million for a football stadium renovation.
“There is a huge benefit to having the support of our alumni network,” Weiss said. “But it’s not a freebie, either. They have to pass muster. We work our interns 50 to 60 hours a week and I don’t tell them to hire a guy; they have to come to me and say they want to hire this guy.”
Weiss said the starting salary for undergraduates at his firm is about $120,000 a year.
The internships don’t violate National Collegiate Athletic Association rules because any student can apply for an internship or job. Participation in intercollegiate athletics is one factor that goes onto an application.
Pierpont Securities’ Werner hired Barb Seaman, captain of Penn’s 2010 Ivy League champion women’s lacrosse team, to work on his sales and trading team after she graduated with a degree in marketing from the Wharton school.
‘World Class’
“These are really intelligent kids with a world-class education,” Werner, 52, said in an interview. “It’s not just about pulling them up. It’s an advantage to us, too.”
Athletes can bring something extra that’s necessary for success in finance, Werner said.
“In a business where it tends to knock you down a lot, they tend to get back up,” he said. “That drive, that level of discipline, the rigor they have in their own personal lives and their willingness to take on hard challenges; a lot of that gets taught to you on an athletic field.”
Powers said while he loves football, he knows where his future lies. He interviewed with Nick Morris, the head of Weiss’s equity trading desk, and got the thumbs up.
Morris was a Penn defensive back in the 1990s. He was voted the Quakers’ defensive Most Valuable Player and was tri-captain of the 1995 team that finished 7-3 overall and 5-2 in the Ivy League, tied for second place with Cornell behind Princeton.
“A lot of the time it’s who you know,” Powers said. “Then, of course, you have to deliver.”
In the latest top 25 poll for FCS football, Pennsylvania is the 28th ranked team in the country. It would make sense that they have become one of the elite teams in the Ivy League in recent years as through this alumni network, more talented players are attracted to UPENN. To quote the article: "Having that kind of board helps the Quakers land better players." With the HCGLC and the "90 Wide" Mentoring Program already in place, imagine not only what talented football players, but also quality students, Holy Cross would attract with scholarships.

Kevin Doyle '11

1 comment:

  1. Does the Holy Cross administration acknowledge and appreciate the power of the Holy Cross Mafia developed by the HCGLC Mentoring Program?

    Do they even know how the Ivy League old boy network has impacted those schools?

    Thanks for sharing this article. This is how it works in the real world.

    Hats off to all those involved in mentoring the HC Football players.