DeKALB – Matt Schoolfield had a job to do Thursday – just not his usual one.
The Cortland resident and a friend spent part of their Thursday afternoon watching multiple college basketball games at Buffalo Wild Wings to see if their predictions in the NCAA’s annual men’s basketball tournament would lead them to the top of the pool they entered with friends.
For Schoolfield, taking vacation or personal days for the first Thursday and Friday of the basketball tournament has become a tradition.
“I’ve been filling out brackets for the last 20 years, since I was 10 years old,” he said. “I’m a big North Carolina fan so [March Madness] has always been one of my passions.”
March Madness is in full swing.
A recent survey from Impulse Research and MSN shows many others who are as passionate as Schoolfield about following the tournament. The survey found two-thirds of workers follow the games, and a third of those who do spend at least three hours watching instead of working.
Although Schoolfield gets his viewing in off the clock, workplace consulting firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas said the tournament costs businesses at least $134 million nationwide in productivity during its first two days.
Instead of fighting the potential distraction, some businesses have embraced it.
Barry Lasco, owner of All American Cleaning and Restoration in Freeport, stopped in at Fatty’s Pub & Grille to watch some of the tournament during a business trip to Rochelle with his employee Devan Bawinkel.
Lasco said there is an office pool to make the tournament fun, and taking time to watch some of the games is a nice morale booster for employees and for him. Lasco has won the office pool the past two years.
“I just pick the team with less seniors,” Lasco said. “It doesn’t seem like it should work, but it has.”
Others said the tournament motivates them to work harder.
Sycamore resident Josh Crittenden said he started work early Thursday and worked as quickly as he could in order to enjoy an extended lunch break. Although he watches no college basketball games during the year, he still catches bracket fever every spring.
“I just fill out the bracket quickly and cross my fingers,” he said. “I picked Louisville to beat Indiana this year. I’m risk-averse.”
The tournament affects more than business productivity.
William Colburn, a graduate student at Northern Illinois University, was out enjoying the games Thursday, but not playing hooky from class as he has known some of his friends to do.
“I’ve definitely known people who have called professors to tell them they are too sick to make it to class,” Colburn said.
Although he was not sick before he started watching his hometown Butler team take on Bucknell in the opening round, he was likely not feeling well as the Bulldogs let a large lead slip in the second half. Thankfully for Colburn, Butler rallied to win.
“I’m a big Butler fan and probably one of the very few out here,” he said. “I really just want any Indiana team to win.”
EAST REGIONAL Butler 68, Bucknell 56 Marquette 59, Davidson 58 California 64, UNLV 61 Syracuse 81, Montana 34
WEST REGIONAL Wichita St. 73, Pittsburgh 55 Gonzaga 64, Southern 58 Arizona 81, Belmont 64 Harvard 68, New Mexico 62
SOUTH REGIONAL Michigan 71, South Dakota St. 56 VCU 88, Akron 42
MIDWEST REGIONAL Louisville 79, N.C. A&T 48 Colorado St. 84, Missouri 72 Michigan St. 65, Valparaiso 54 Memphis 54, Saint Mary’s (Calif.) 52 Saint Louis 64, New Mexico St. 44 Oregon 68, Oklahoma St. 55