Massachusetts Online Sports Betting Proves Fatal for Holy Cross Endowment Fund

Patrick Grudberg ‘24

College Basketball Zealot

It was the night of Selection Sunday. Like most sports fans, President Rougeau sat there looking at the newly released bracket. Parsing through the matchups, he’d already found a few surefire winners. Sitting in his living room beside the fireplace, this was one of his first moments of respite during the week. Little did his colleagues know that like most of the college campus, Rougeau was ready to risk it all on his newly active FanDuel account.

It’s well known that Holy Cross has a very large endowment. We saw that first hand last year when the freshmen class was given personal SodaStream machines. Gosh, I felt like royalty filling up my water bottle with lime flavored water every day in Stein. I could go on for days about the wonders of the SodaStream-Holy Cross collab of 2021-2022. So as Rougeau sat there looking at the FanDuel odds for the first round matchups, he had a brilliant idea. “What if I placed a bet that was a mortal lock, a surefire winner, a no-brainer? Like if I parlayed all the one seeds? Hey, even if I threw in some of the two seeds, that’s free money!”

Now as we know, President Rougeau is a man of the people. So when he decided to parlay all the one seeds, he knew that the winnings should benefit the students and faculty of Holy Cross. We don’t even touch our endowment in the first place, so there isn’t a better time to put those stacks of cash to use and put it all on this lock of a parlay?

Rougeau had his bet ready. But before he went on the FanDuel app to place his bet, he decided to call his good friend for some final advice. He was a former Holy Cross legend himself. A man who knew something about playing the odds. His name was none other than Philip Boroughs. Late on that Sunday night, fast approaching midnight, he texted Father Boroughs about his parlay idea. Boroughs immediately texted back, as any good friend does, adding only one suggestion. “Why not throw Arizona in there? That’ll raise the odds and increase the winnings. No way those silly boys from Princeton will beat the PAC12 Champions!” Rougeau instantly agreed. As the clock struck midnight, our President added the legs to his bet slip. Houston to beat Northern Kentucky; Kansas to beat Howard; Alabama to beat Texas A&M Corpus Christi; and Purdue to beat Fairleigh Dickinson. Instead of throwing in Arizona, he decided to split his odds and place a separate bet on the Wildcats to annihilate the Tigers, taking a -13 point spread. And as promised, he threw the entire school’s endowment, which was 1.04 billion as of 2021, on this simple, can’t lose March Madness parlay.

It was nearing 5pm on Thursday, March 16th. Four to five games had already concluded. Some folks were happy, having picked Furman to defeat Virginia (gonna pat myself on the back there). And like most fans, our watch party setup didn’t have attentive eyes on the 2v15 matchup between Arizona and Princeton. Key word “most” fans. Vincent Rougeau stood nervously in his office on the first floor of Fenwick, locked into the Arizona Princeton game. Little did anyone know, but our President had 300 million of our endowment hanging in the balance as Arizona nurtured a mere one point advantage heading into halftime. The way would get worse. By the time 6pm hit, Princeton had knocked off the Pac12 champs. 300 million of Holy Cross’ endowment was down the drain. The alarm bells were ringing in the bursar’s office. People were frantically on the phone, trying to figure out why there were huge withdrawals on the College’s savings account. Rougeau had bolted the doors shut to his office. Chairs were stacked against the doors, praying that nobody would confront him on the missing funds.

To President Rougeau’s relief, three of the four one seeds secured their wins on Thursday. If Purdue handled business against the lowly Knights of Fairleigh Dickinson, he would turn his 700 million dollar parlay into a net earning of 31 million dollars. That’s enough to fund the new housing developments. And maybe he could even use it to reduce tuition (most likely not though, SodaStream investments take precedence). Everything was on the line when Purdue and Fairleigh Dickinson tipped off around 7pm on Friday night. After a taxing week of presidential duties and bad betting beats, Rougeau needed this. To his surprise, as Purdue went into the half down one, a knock came at the door. Nervously, he opened the door to find Dean Murray standing at the threshold of his office. “Did you also take Purdue -23?” “Uhh, yeah, you could say that,” Rougeau responded with a nervous laugh. Dean Murray sat down in the presidential office as the second half began.

That Friday night, I enjoyed the company of my roommates, kicking back in our dorm watching the final games of the first round. We marveled at the history being made in front of us. For the second time in college basketball history, a 16 seed had just knocked off a 1 seed. As I went outside to let a friend in, I thought I heard a wailing scream. One of those screams you don’t forget. After a quick pause, I shrugged off the loud noise coming from Fenwick, let my friend in, and enjoyed the rest of the night. Little did I know, our entire 1 billion dollar endowment had just been flushed down the drain. Curse you, Zach Edey.

Cover photo courtesy of FanDuel

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