CLEVELAND—Sobbing silently at his desk after refreshing his browser for the 19th time today, Trevor Young finally accepted that he would not win this year’s office bracket pool.
Though he had picked an unlikely champion, Young still had high hopes for his selection.
“I tried to go against the grain this year in order to maximize my chance of winning,” the 35-year-old admissions counselor said. “So I went with a 4 seed from the West, someone none of the co-workers had even heard of.”
Unfortunately for Young, his risky pick turned out to be a mistake. His selection, a hopeful theater and art history double major from Bozeman, Montana, was upset in the second round by prospective biomedical engineering student.
Every year, the employees of the admissions department at Case Western Reserve University create a bracket of 64 students vying for the final acceptance slot into the school. It’s called March Mania and more and more staffers participate every year.
“I’ve heard Babs [President Barbara Snyder] even submitted one this year. Under a fake name, of course,” said James Wright, Young’s cubicle neighbor. “She finished in second.”
An anonymous worker known only Mr. M has won the pool every year since its inception, correctly picking the last student standing for the past 20 years. Multiple workers were asked about him and his methods, but no employee could give the same answer as another. Some said he had inside information, while others explained his success away with luck.
Enthusiasm for the annual challenge varies among employees. Some, like Young and Wright, spend hours at work crunching numbers and looking at trends to figure out who the best selection would be. Neither has ever come close to winning.
Others, like 71-year-old Agnes Harold, devote exactly one minute to filling out a bracket.
“I set a tomato timer to one minute, and when it rings, I stop,” said Harold. “I have no time for this nonsense.”
Last year, Harold finished second and won a $20 gift card to Michelson and Morley Restaurant.
For the 2017 March Mania, Hunter Turner, the No. 1 overall seed, came in as a heavy favorite. A potential mechanical engineering and music double major, Turner was the head of his high school’s student government and also concertmaster of the student symphony. He was picked to win by over 50 percent of the brackets in the pool this season.
He lost in the second round to Claire Folkes, an eight seed in the Midwest region.
“I was shocked that he lost,” said Young. “He had too good of a record to not go all the way.”
Folkes advanced to the Final Four, with a solid resume of three varsity sports captaincies and a perfect 4.0 GPA. She lost to the eventual champion, Hector Nunez, the No. 1 seed in the East.
Nunez was ecstatic when he heard the news.
“Case Western Reserve University?” he asked earnestly. “Never heard of the place. Is that a military academy or something?”
As of press time, he is still waiting for his acceptance letter from Harvard.