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Transforming Your Game: Northwestern Basketball and Your Organization's Retirement Plan

In the entire history of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament (77 years to be exact), my alma mater, Northwestern University, has NEVER qualified to participate - until now.  To put this in perspective, while it took the Chicago Cubs 108 years to win the World Series, they had at least been to the World Series before and had participated in the playoffs on other occasions.  Imagine a team that has never even been to the playoffs. That’s the Northwestern Wildcats.

And, for many of those 77 years, not only did the Wildcats not qualify for the playoffs, they haven’t even been close. A representative sample is my four years as an undergrad (1985-1989), when there was a combined record of 32 wins and 80 losses, with the team finishing last in the conference each year!  That was with a coach who was the first to win 20 games in a season with four different schools and who had also previously made the NCAA championship game. The Northwestern men’s basketball program has been dreadful for a long, long time.

Until this year. Under the leadership of former Duke assistant coach, Chris Collins, Northwestern easily made the NCAA tournament. Collins took the position knowing the history of the program and the likelihood that he would be out of a job if the team performed as their predecessors had for so many prior seasons.  In fact, Northwestern was known as the “Graveyard of Coaches,” since so many coaches (including the one who coached during my years there) never coached again after being at the helm of Northwestern’s team.  But Collins was determined to end the futility, and, with the support of his bosses (the Athletic Director and University President), was able to do so in just four years.

Okay, you are probably assuming that I am going to make a connection to retirement plans at some point - and you are, indeed, correct.   I realize that many of you have experienced challenges with your retirement and/or other employee benefit plans. There may be too many recordkeepers, too many investment options, a sub-optimal plan design, or all of the above.  Your ability to improve the plan may be impacted by a number of variables within your organization.

But I imagine that none of you have worked with a horrible retirement plan for 77 years, having been hired under the pressure of fixing it or seeking employment elsewhere.  In recent years, I have witnessed many plan sponsors transform their retirement plans to wonderful benefits for employees in a short period of time.  If your retirement plan is not “Best in Class,” I hope that you look to make improvements as well.  And if you find yourself discouraged at any point during the struggle to change, think of Coach Collins; I am certain that he felt disheartened during his transformative process, but persevered to do something no one had ever done before. 

Editor’s Note:  Mike Webb has now joined the Twitterverse, so be sure to follow Mike (@MikeWebb_CRG) to enjoy the latest retirement plans news and insights in 140 characters or less! 

Note: This feature is to provide general information only, does not constitute legal advice, and cannot be used or substituted for legal or tax advice.

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