March Madness Relationship Capital Bracket

March Madness has just begun – how does your bracket look? With the games just beginning, we thought we’d create our own bracket based on what we know best – relationship capital. We’ve started with the seeding from this year’s Men’s NCAA tournament. In each round, schools will face off based on how well-connected their alumni are, with the most connected school moving on. Will a favorite like UVA, Villanova, or Duke come out on top? Or will an underdog pull off a surprise victory? Keep reading to find out.

Round of 64: Alumni Connections to Fortune 500 Companies

Having an “in” at important organizations is a critical component of relationship capital. For the round of 64, we compared schools based on their connections to influential decision makers at Fortune 500 companies – organizations which together represent two-thirds of US GDP and employ 28.2 million worldwide.

Number one seeds Virginia (23,074 Fortune 500 connections), Xavier (7,586) and Villanova (19,349) skated through this round, but #1 Kansas (17,847) fell hard to #16 Penn (24,153) in the Midwest Region. What an upset! Looks like the Quakers are a bit more successful in the board room than on the court.

Round of 32: Alumni Connections to C-Suite Executives

32 schools left in the running – these teams still have a lot of work ahead of them. We looked next at which alumni have the most connections to c-suite executives. Getting a warm introduction to top management gets you one step closer to landing a big business deal, so we wanted to know which schools have the edge.

In the Midwest, Penn (199,849 c-suite connections) kept up its Cinderella story, knocking off #9 NC State (63,646). Things were a lot chalkier in the East Region, where both of the top seeds advanced to the Sweet 16.

Sweet 16: Number of Alumni Who are C-Suite Executives

It’s undeniable that the more upper-level managers come from a school, the more relationship capital that school has. These individuals are the decision makers – they’re making the final call on the budget, preparing the five year roadmap, investing in your start-up, or partnering with your cause.

The University of Texas, whose alumni include such notables as Southwest Airlines CEO Gary C. Kelly and Former Exxon CEO/Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, absolutely dominated this round. The Longhorns upset #2 seed Cincinnati 3,413 executives to 490. Elsewhere, Penn (3,279) continued its streak with a victory over Auburn (465) – what an unprecedented run for the first #16 seed to make it out of the first round in Men’s NCAA history. Tournament favorites UVA and Villanova also moved on to the Elite 8.

Elite 8: Alumni Mentions in the Past Year’s News

Another measure of relationship capital is a strong presence in the news and media, and not just in the entertainment section. It’s important to share your message and inform the public about relevant facts related to your industry. This is why we challenged our Elite 8 to see how many noteworthy news mentions their alumni have had in the last year.

While they may regularly make the news for their basketball dominance, both UVA and Villanova came up slightly short on the alumni front. Virginia (19,907 alumni mentions) was overpowered by the University of Texas (50,516), which rode its way to victory on the shoulders of former Secretary Tillerson.  Villanova (5,772) fell in a hard-fought match against Purdue (10,936). Rounding out the Relationship Capital Final Four are Penn (30,991) and University of Michigan (36,058).

Final 4: Network Strength

As those of us who’ve accepted one too many LinkedIn requests from strangers know, relationship capital isn’t just about the number of connections you have. It’s also about whether there are real relationships behind those connections – ones you can use to get business done. RelSci’s complex algorithms assign an “access likelihood” to each of our relationships based on a number of factors – for example, the relationship between a small company’s CEO and CFO will have a much higher access likelihood than the relationship between two analysts at a big bank. To determine who would advance to the finals, we calculated the overall strength of each school’s alumni network using this metric.

University of Texas (.291 average access likelihood) came into the Final Four confident after a dominant performance in the past two rounds, but they were no match for fan favorite University of Michigan (.302). On the other side of the bracket, University of Pennsylvania (.299) proved they care about relationship quality as well as quantity in a stunning victory over Purdue (.288).

Finals: Total Alumni Relationship Capital

What a tournament! Penn and Michigan face off in the final round on the simplest metric of all – total number of alumni relationships. All else equal, the more connections you have, the higher your relationship capital. Who came out ahead?

The winner of the 2018 Relationship Capital championship is Michigan with 1,517,113 alumni relationships, just 38,194 more than second-place Penn.

Whether or not your alma mater made it into the March Madness bracket for the NCAA Division I men’s basketball championship or you diligently follow your picks through the tournament, keep in mind that the success of a college or university can be found in unexpected places, like the strength and vast connections of its alumni. Start your free trial of RelSci Pro or check out our alumni index to learn more about your school’s relationship capital.


March Madness
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