An Investment Bank Only Looking for Jocks

My brother told me the other day that an investment bank one of his friends works for is looking to hire recent college graduates…and they just want to recruit college athletes (with some exceptions).

This is consistent with everything else I know, anecdotally and statistically. Anecdotally I can say most bright jocks enter professions such as investment banking, consulting, or other high stress/high payoff positions. Statistically college athletes make more money in their careers on average than non-athletes, probably because a college jock is less likely to go into academia, for example, than tthe corporate world. (See Princeton Roundtable and NYRB)

Despite my diminishing interest in sports, as a former jock I can say two things:

1) Non-athletes never seem to appreciate the skills a devoted athlete builds during his/her sports career. These skills include teamwork, communication, unwavering commitment, sacrifice, failure, and so forth. It is possible to build these skills in non-athletic situations, but it’s not as central as it is in team sports.

2) Non-athletes who complain about preferential admissions to colleges for recruited athletes never seem to acknowledge the projected earnings of athletes in their lifetime, and athletes’ tendency to give more to their alma mater. Athletes are meaningful donors to their schools. I’m not saying this should trump other troubling indicators of academically underqualified athletes on campus.

The phrase "dumb jock" may be true. But it is also true that being smart or dumb doesn’t necessarily project success from an earnings perspective. Other traits such as work ethic are important, and sometimes competitive sports indoctrinates these capacities better than simple mental exercise or effort.

14 comments on “An Investment Bank Only Looking for Jocks
  • This is a crazy decision, no matter what you say.

    What requires a better, stronger attitude – commitment, teamwork and sacrifice to sports in order to be famous and popular at your college, or commitment, teamwork and sacrifice in order to be known as that finance geek?

    As a former geek turned jock myself, I definitely appreciate the value of exercise, but in order to become good at any highly competitive profession, you have to devote yourself to it full-time, and there simply is not enough time to be both a real jock and a real professional.

    Besides, the jocks in college are usually dumb as a rock (being talented at sports and at academics both would be rather unusual), and very pampered and spoilt.

    If you want to hire for work ethic and commitment, hire somebody who put himself through college by working at Walmart all night, that impresses me far more.

  • Ben, sometimes i am so AFRAID to read your blog, or newspapers, because i feel as an individual, i might not be able to offer a lot of what is required by corporations and start-ups out there. I don’t go to top business school, I don’t speak english as my first language, I don’t play sports. But this to turn it around into a positive note, I know what i am lacking of, and therefore, each time i see what qualities are required to be successful or be ahead. I sit down and analyze how close i am to it.

  • When people think of jocks, they often think of Latrell Sprewell, complaining that he couldn’t feed his family on $8 million a year, or Matt Leinart at USC, spending his senior season hanging out with Nick Lachey and “dating” Paris Hilton.

    But the vast majority of college athletes (including those being hired by the company in question) know that they have no chance at making a living from their athletic talent.

    If I hire a former athlete with solid academic achievements, I know that those achievements are all the more impressive given the 5 hours per day he or she had to spend practicing and playing a sport.

  • Bernadette — There is no one path to success. Not every successful person has gone to a top business school, played sports, and speaks English as first language. In fact, many of the most successful Valley entrepreneurs were not born in America. Only 10% of the CEOs of major corporations have Ivy League degrees. And sports, well, that’s pretty minor!

    Everyone is different. Embrace your individuality and use it as a strength.

  • Let me define what I meant when I said “major” colleges a little bit
    better. There are approximately 3000 colleges in the US, I don’t have
    a great number but I would guess 1000 of them have some kind of sports
    program. I know there are just over 100 Division 1 schools in the
    NCAA, of these there are a few dozen that have top athletic programs
    and top academic programs. The “major” schools.

    These are the schools you read about in the news on a daily basis.
    Not the “Indiana University Calumet South Campus’s” of the world but
    the real players in the higher education game. The ones pulling down
    $100’s of millions in NIH, NSF, DoD research dollars, having alumni
    networks in the hundreds of thousands, and on top of it all great
    sports programs.

    My thesis: The majority of the college teams you see on ESPN have
    athletes with a average GPA higher then the student body. Largely
    because if they are going to do something (produce STUDENT-athletes)
    they are going to do it in a quality way.

    Now where I see the real abuses is with the 700 Division III schools
    in the world…

    Just my thoughts, without a lot of necessary empirical evidence.


  • Hiring Athletes is one way of hiring people who are competitive. Being more competitive typically results in more pay. Though being more competitive does not mean you are a better team player.

  • Hey Benedict – I noticed you left out an element that seems important to me. Perhaps you left this out intentionally; perhaps it didn’t occur to you. (It is also based more on intuition than any kind of concrete evidence). It is: Values. My hunch is that the stereotypical jock is more single-minded about making $$ than the stereotypical intellectual, who may be more concerned with “saving the world” or pursuing a more “rewarding” livelihood, ie. “doing what I love.” I’d be curious to hear your thoughts on this…

  • Benjamin — Values could play a role. The question is, does the stereotypical jock care more about making money because he can? Many stereotypical intellectuals — bookish, introverted, sometimes short on people skills — wouldn’t be able to make a lot of money in the big money professions, even if they wanted to.

  • Ben,
    Every college has an athletic department. 325 division 1 athletic programs. A lot more than 3000 colleges when you include Junior Colleges, which also have sports programs. Get your facts right

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