SURVEY SAYS: Will You Pool It This Week?

March 20, 2008 ( - March is more than half over, but March Madness didn't start until this week when the Men's NCAA Division 1 basketball tournament gets underway.

This week, I asked readers if they were participating in a pool (or two) – and if so, who they had picked to go all the way.

Our weekly polls are frequently full of some interesting surprises – none more so than this week, where more than half ( 51% ) said they were not participating in any poll this year.   Nor was this reticence the apparent result of a workplace policy prohibiting such practices, with fewer than 17% citing such policies (in fairness, a full 41% weren’t sure).   Among those that had such a policy was the reader who said, “In regards to my blank responses to most of the questions and my response the second question, under advice of counsel I’d like to exercise my fifth amendment right not to incriminate myself.” 

Roughly 10% said they had a prohibitive policy, but “nobody pays it any mind” (“Don’t ask, don’t tell”, was how one reader characterized it), and a third said there was no such policy.   As one reader noted, “The policy is based on the state law here, which allows a person to win up to $50. It’s also supposed to be done on our own time. As far as the last rule goes, some follow it more closely than others.”

“I think they can be a fun diversion for employees, provided they don’t get out of hand,” said another.   A number of readers echoed the sentiment of the respondent who said, “I think that the pools can actually boost morale and get people talking to each other. That’s not a bad thing. Many of us have just survived compliance testing season, so the NCAA Tournament is a welcome distraction.”

But, as for those who were participating, 28% said they were, 10% were, and via more than one sheet, 6% in more than one pool - and 4% with more than one sheet in more than one pool.

Who's In First?

The favorite team on the pick sheets of this year's respondents - the North Carolina Tar Heels, who garnered the support of nearly a third ( 30.6% ) of this week's votes, putting them squarely ahead of the number two choice…."Don't care", which drew 20% .   A distant third (or second place, depending on how you look at it) went to Kansas ( 12.9% ), followed by Me State and UCLA ( 10.6% each), and Georgetown ( 3.5% ).   Also named were UConn, Drake, Duke, Kent State, Mt. St. Marys (who notched a win last night in the play-in round over Coppin State), Notre Dame, St. Joseph's, Texas, UNLV, and Villanova.

Asked how long they spent on making those picks, the most common answer was…about 15 minutes (31.1%), just ahead of the quarter that took about 5 minutes, while nearly one-in-five took between 15 minutes and a half hour.   Roughly 10% said they took about a minute, a matching 10% admitted they weren't keeping track of time…and about 5% "were embarrassed to say" how long it too.

One reader noted, "I don't follow basketball. I let my four year old son & his stuffed frog "Froggy" pick most of my teams."   And no, I've no idea how long Froggy took…

Of course, while many make their pool picks with their head, there are always the picks you want to make with your heart.   Asked which team they WANTED to win the tournament, the most common answer was…."Don't Care", cited by a full quarter of this week's respondents.   North Carolina was the second-most popular, drawing the support of 8.7%, followed by Drake (6.5%), and Notre Dame (5.4%).   "The team I want to win isn't playing" was picked by 6.5%.   Also named were Arizona, Clemson, UConn, Cornell, Davidson, Duke, Georgetown, Gonzaga, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Marquette, Me State, Mt. St. Mary's, Oregon, Pittsburgh, San Diego, Sienna, USC, St. Joseph's, Temple, Texas, Texas A&M, UNLV, Vanderbuilt, Villanova, Wisconsin, and Xavier.

I should take a second to acknowledge that several readers asked me why I wasn't asking about the Women's NCAA basketball tournament - and the reason for that is simple.   In all my working career, I have NEVER been handed a pick sheet for the women's tournament (on the other hand, if I were, I surely couldn't do any worse).

Among the verbatims to this week's survey:

"I'm a female that hates basketball and doesn't follow it at all...last year I was one of the big winners. My goal is to beat my 20 year old son's picks. It really frustrates him that his mom does better than him :)"

"Back when this was a fun place to work March Madness was an event!"

"I can't figure the whole thing out...I thought IRS regs were convoluted, but they're nothing compared to figuring out "seeds" and "Sweet 16"!"

But this week's Editor's Choice goes to the reader who noted, "If there's a pool going on this year I don't know about it, but that may just be because they are afraid to let HR know there is one going on."

Thanks to everyone who participated in our survey!