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What University of Michigan Football Could Teach Business: The Bill Borgmann Core Value Story

Core Values Series: This is the first of an eight part series
highlighting the backstories to our core values


My Grandfather - Bill Borgmann (#6) - played football for University of Michigan back in 1934. He was good buddies with fellow teammate Gerald Ford (#48). Grandpa went on to be a Lawyer. Gerald Ford went on to be President.

One of their teammates was Willis Ward (#61). Ward was a black football player 15 years before Jackie Robinson played Major League Baseball.

When the University of Michigan was to play Georgia Tech, Tech refused to take the field if Ward played. The story goes that when the players found out about this they contemplated refusing to play. Now I don't know if it was truly the "Rudy-esque" moment that President Ford's campaign made it out to be. There seems to be some dispute about that.

But what I do know is that they did take the field without Ward. Early in the game one of the Tech players made a snide comment to my Grandfather and President Ford that I can only assume used the N-word. As the story goes, my Grandfather and President Ford hit that guy so hard on the next play it took him out of the game via a stretcher.

Even 40 years later, you can still see the pride and joy in Ward's retelling.


Grandpa never told me that story. It would be 7 years after he died when I first heard it. I love that story for a lot of reasons. One of which is because I believe it speaks to a familial belief that this world should be a meritocracy.

This is one of the reasons I love sports so much (it certainly isn't because I am good at them). Ultimately at the end of the day, sports do not care about anything other than how well you play, how well you help your teammates, and how well your teammates help you.

Within that meritocracy there are phenomenal players and there are great players - you don't make it to the team if you aren't great - but compensation and tenure is solely based on how well you perform. Tom Brady is not compensated the same as Edelman, and Edelman is not compensated the same as the backup lineman. That doesn't devalue the backup lineman. Our value in this world should not be based on our position or earnings.

But business should be a meritocracy. Your value within a company should not be based on whether you are male or female, young or old, Republican or Democrat, educated or uneducated, straight or gay, Christian, Jewish, Muslim or non-religious, Black, White, Latino or Asian, or anything else. The only thing that matters in a business is how well you perform for your team.

Tech companies in particular are not notorious for being good at this. Sure, their Executives write books on the concept, but their cultures do not reflect this. Vy Technology will strive in all things to be a meritocracy.

Thank you, Bill Borgmann. We will do our best to be like you.