The Electric Commentary

Friday, August 27, 2004

The NCAA: Helping Kids Succeed

Mike Williams was a promising young student at the University of Southern California. His accounting skills had garnered praise from all of the top universities since he was a freshman in high school and a few of the bigger firms even contemplated making an offer before Mike set foot in a college. He eventually chose USC due to their strong reputation and connections to the big California firms.

Mike had the big time in his sights since he decided to become an accountant at the age of 4. He looked up to all of the famous accountants, and put all his efforts into training to be just like them. He spent his recesses during his formative years balancing the books on an extensive baseball card collection. Soon he moved on to marbles, comic books, and eventually, cars. If it could be recorded using double entry bookkeeping principles under GAAP, Mike recorded it using double entry bookkeeping principles under GAAP.

In his senior year of high school, Williams created an innovative new method for amortizing goodwill that is just now being implemented at the top levels of accounting. It allowed for a much more rigorous record of goodwill value while still allowing fair dispensation of that value for tax purposes. This achievement brought Mike considerable fame in the profession. If the top firms were considering him before, they were positively giddy over the prospect of landing him now.

Williams’s success continued in his first year of college. Stated one professor,

Mike was not just brilliant in class. He was also instrumental to the completion of a few highly technical projects. Some of our professors have moved on to bigger and better things specifically because they had Mike helping out on projects.

Mike’s college exploits did not go unrewarded as, at the end of his sophomore year, USC’s business school scored an unprecedented number one ranking thanks largely to Mike's stellar work in the accounting discipline. Unfortunately, during the summer of his sophomore year, things took a turn for the worse.

Mike was considering signing on with a big firm and foregoing his final two years at school. He was so accomplished that many firms were salivating at the prospect of picking him up, and the offers coming in were to good not to investigate. It had been a rough few years in the accounting industry, what with the epic Enron, Imclone, and Tyco scandals. The big firms were desperately in need of new talent, but unfortunately a license is required to practice, and without at least one more year in school, Mike would be without that license. A recent court ruling had given Mike hope that he might be able to forego the licensing requirement, so he hired an agent to help him make the best decision. After all, if the ideal situation did not come up, he could always go back to school. Or so he thought.

In the middle of the summer, the court ruling was reversed and Mike became ineligible to practice. However, when he attempted to return to school, he was denied entrance. A body called the NCAA (National Collegiate Accounting Association) governs college accounting programs and there is, in the NCAA by-laws, a prohibition against employing an agent while still in school. Mike had fired his agent, anticipating this problem, but the NCAA ruled against him anyway, stating that allowing such a thing would destroy the amateurism of the schools program, and give USC an unfair advantage when recruiting top accounting talent.
Mike was stuck. He could not work for the firms, even though they all wanted to hire him, and he could not return to school to hone his skills.

Despite the setbacks, Mike keeps a positive attitude:

I'm glad it's over. Now the firms can move forward and I can move forward. I'm disappointed. I did everything asked of me. I don't know yet what I'm going to do. I'll just relax for the weekend and balance a few books I have left over. I'm kind of done with it right now.

USC vice president and legal counsel Todd Dickey said while the ruling could be appealed, the matter was closed.

At this point, we don't believe it would be useful to go through those processes. We think the NCAA has firmly made up its mind.

So Mike Williams, accounting phenom, waits quietly in his Los Angeles apartment, awaiting the day that he can finally begin his career. Mike is a smart guy, and he still can’t quite get his mind around the purpose for the rule:

I’m ready, the firms think that I’m ready. What exactly is the big deal?

End Article

Does this sound ridiculous to you?

Is it any more ridiculous than what really happened here?

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