Virginia called a play in which quarterback Bryce Perkins had the option to hand the ball to running back Jordan Ellis, or pull it back and pass or run it himself. Perkins elected to pull the ball back.
The rest is something that Mendenhall – and every Wahoo fan – would like to forget. Perkins fumbled and the Hokies recovered, winning the game, 34-31.
While Mendenhall said their proprietary analytics support aggressive play-calling when in overtime on the road, in retrospect he wishes he had been more conservative in that instance. Mendenhall said the call for a run-pass option created an “increased volatility.”
Of course, if he had known the outcome, Mendenhall said he would have called for a straight run or pass that wouldn’t have put as much pressure on Perkins at such a key juncture.
Unfortunately, nobody has the luxury of knowing the outcome beforehand. Not on the football field, not in the classroom, not in the workforce, not in the military – and especially not in UVA alumnus John Griffin’s world.
This semester, the Board of Visitors member, who founded the hedge fund Blue Ridge Capital, has been teaching the seminar at UVA’s McIntire School of Commerce, “Deciding Wisely and Thinking Critically,” that Mendenhall addressed.
“Choice matters,” said Griffin, in an opening salute to students. “Everything we create and achieve results from a series of decisions. Unless you are terrifically lucky or unlucky, the quality of your choices will determine the quality of your life.
“And as you’ll find out, people – even McIntire students – are not naturally as good decision-makers as they think. That’s OK, because there are many ways to get better, and we are going to learn them.”
The lessons began with that talk with Mendenhall on the first day of class in January, and continued with visits from, among others, renowned investors Ian McKinnon and Julian Robertson, acclaimed professor Dan Ariely, UVA President Jim Ryan, former CIA Chief of Staff Jeremy Bash and professional poker player Maria Konnikova. Even UVA men’s basketball coach Tony Bennett shared insights into his decision-making process by video.
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Griffin’s own quest for deeper knowledge began at age 12 while working a paper route in a town just outside New York City.
While delivering papers by bicycle, a young Griffin wondered about all the businesses he passed. Some appeared to be flourishing, while others floundered. “Why are these guys closing? What did they do wrong?” Griffin remembered when asked about his earliest interest in investing.
Neither of Griffin’s parents had business or finance backgrounds. Griffin’s father served in the British Air Force during World War II. He met Griffin’s mother when she was in England visiting Shakespeare’s birthplace as part of her Ph.D. program at Columbia University.
After getting married in 1952, Griffin’s father became a stay-at-home dad; Griffin’s mother was an English professor at the City University of New York. “My dad didn’t earn a paycheck his entire life,” Griffin said. “It was a complete role reversal.”