What the Final Four Taught Me About Turning Away Money Making Opportunities

Just last week I posted about how I had identified an opportunity to make money investing in Japan, but never took action. The inaction cost me some decent, quick returns. 

Sometimes we do encounter opportunities that can make us some extra money. Helping the bottom line can be a great thing. However, sometimes we decide to turn away such opportunities.

With the college basketball Final Four concluding this month, this reminded me of a situation where I took that opposite approach. In that case, I had a money making opportunity in front of me, related to the Final Four, but I rejected it. Despite mixed opinions on how I handled it, I still think it was the right decision.

The Money Making Opportunity

The scene was back in the early 1990’s, in college. It was tournament time, and my school – Indiana – had just advanced to the Final Four. For those who might not know, Indiana was an absolutely basketball-crazed school at that time. It was a different era, with Bob Knight commanding the team to frequent Big Ten championships and NCAA tournament appearances. The school had won 3 National Championships with him, and many people were hoping this would be title #4. Students and alumni alike were fired up.

As I recall it, a lottery of sorts was held to determine who would obtain a “claim card” for Final Four Tickets. I rushed over to Assembly Hall with a few guys from my fraternity, and we were hoping our luck would be good. As it turns out, it was indeed good – we got the claim cards!

The guys who got the cards with me were fired up. We could drive all day to Minneapolis to get to the game, and then make a choice – either watch the games, or try to sell the tickets we get after redeeming the cards. Those tickets, we thought, could be worth serious money. For college students, it was a nice choice – watch your school compete in the Final Four, or collect some cash!

The Dilemma

After getting the claim card, it dawned on me that I would have two exams early the next week. If I recall correctly, I had 2 tests the following Wednesday, while the championship game was on Monday.

I didn’t want to be unprepared for the exams, and knew that the guys I was going with had no exams and were going to totally live it up on this epic road trip.

The first games (semi-finals) would be Saturday, and if Indiana lost, we could drive back. If Indiana won, we would have to stay for the game, then drive all day and get back late Tuesday night. Of course, the guys wanted to stay until Tuesday morning no matter what happened to Indiana, so that’s the way things were going to go.

The opportunity to sell the tickets was clear. We could make money, and watch the games right in the heart of the action. It could be a lot of fun. However, I’d be far less prepared for my exams than I felt comfortable with.

What to do? Get the cash and fun experience, or be boring and poor – but prepared for the exams?

The Result

Ok, so based on how I set this up, you know what I did. I turned down the opportunity to go.

How much money did I lose? Well, when the guys came back, they claimed to have sold the tickets for $800 each. Apparently the seats were that good.  I chose being well-prepared for 2 exams instead of $800 and a really fun road trip.

Of course, the 2 clowns that went on the trip also ended up gambling away nearly all of their windfall at some Minnesota Indian Reservation casino. Ha!

When I told people about my decision at the time, some jaws dropped.  “WHY????” is what I heard more that once, when I said I chose to turn down the experience so I could study more. A few people said they would have done the same things, though they were clearly in the minority.

The thing is, looking back, I still totally think I made the right move at the time, given all available information. This is also different from how I skipped school about 5 years earlier to see an Opening Day game. Maybe I matured :)

Sometimes the cost of making some extra money exceeds the benefit. In other words, one can be penny wise and pound foolish.

One example might be taking a job that pays you 25% more, but requires an extra hour of commuting each day and more business travel. You’re turning down a lucrative money-making opportunity, but in doing so you’re making a decision that’s best for you.

My Questions For You:

What would you have done in that situation? Would you have taken the road trip for the money and fun opportunity, or would you have stayed back and done the responsible thing, and forgo the money and fun?

Have you encountered any such situations of your own, where you turned down opportunity to make more money that others might have gone for?


  1. says

    I would have stayed back and studied for those two classes. What happenes if you failed those two classes? How much would it cost you to simple re-enroll in them? How much more time would you have to invest in them? I don’t think it would be worth it for some fun. My own fraternity throws parties now and then and I always have to stop myself from going to the majority of them because I have some test coming up. You can either pay now or you can pay later but in the end you pay.

    -Ravi Gupta

  2. says

    You went to IU? Pretty cool!

    Knowing IU, I can safely say I’d probably pass up the opportunity, knowing there’s plenty of fun on campus at any given time. Little 5 is coming up soon. 😉

  3. says

    Although there was no money to be made, I had a similar situation. I was in a no cut Senior class in Louisiana during Mardi Gras. I passed on an opportunity to go with some friends because of the class. No regrets, well maybe a little!

  4. says

    Awesome story. I would have stayed to study, too. I love my sports, but I’m pretty practical. It’s great some fans are so passionate they would go and paint themselves, but that’s just not me. What would you choose if this presented itself, going to your favorite pro sport championship or taking the money for those insane tickets prices (Super Bowl, NBA Championship, World Series, etc.)? I’m sorry, but I would take the money every time!

  5. says

    I would have stayed and studied. But saying that, last year I quit my well paying job and took a job that paid 30% less with NO benefits. I was hoping it was a better fit. It wasn’t and I ended up quitting 6 months later. I don’t regret it.

  6. says

    Going to sports games or any sources of entertainment are not more important than school man. The opportunity to go to sports games in the future is high man!

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