Tossing Around Trump Metaphors at Ivy League Football Dinner

  • Citigroup’s Corbat laments number of ‘referees’ in banking
  • Trump is ‘playing on a different field,’ Gary Fencik says

Attending a dinner Thursday night for Ivy League alumni who played football, Gary Fencik, who played for Yale and the Chicago Bears, found the sport a useful metaphor for talking about President Donald Trump.

Adam Conklin, Kyle Cazzetta, Philippe Panico and Gary Fencik

Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

“It’s almost like you’re watching a football game and you try to analyze every play, and this person is playing on a different field, he’s playing a different game,” said Fencik, a partner at private equity firm Adams Street Partners.

Grant Hill and Calvin Hill

Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

Sure, Trump has selected many Ivy League alumni for his cabinet, but that didn’t appear to give him an advantage with this crowd.

“If he had done the things he did in the National Football League, he’d be on the commissioner’s exempt list,” said another Yale graduate, Calvin Hill, a 12-season veteran of the NFL. “The other thing -- he brags, he talks about being from the Wharton School. This is a roomful of guys, I know a lot of them, and none of them are pompous about where they went to school or what they do.”

Trump’s surprise win inspired comparisons to some classic football plays at the biennial Ivy Football Association Dinner held at the Sheraton New York Times Square.

Chris Della Pietra and Javier Loya

Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

“He’s a desperation heave,” said Javier Loya, chairman and chief executive officer of Houston-based OTC Global Holdings, before expressing displeasure with Trump’s plan to build a wall. “Speaking as a first generation Mexican-American, it’s problematic,” Loya said. “It’s not the message we want to send. We all want security, but a wall, whether it’s virtual, real or cement, is not necessarily the best way to address border security.”

“He’d be a goal-line stance,” said Robert Wolf of 32 Advisors, because “you’re ramming it hard for that 1 yard. He’s definitely a guy who’s going to be in the trenches.”

Brian Corbat, Pat Fleming and Joe Margolis

Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

The “Hail Mary” was Pat Fleming’s comparison of choice. “There’s a lot of things going on here that could go either way,” the chief investment officer for the state of Wyoming said. “The normal thing would be running up the middle -- a very safe play, you don’t gain any yards. His policies could be very dramatic one way or the other.”

Fleming, a teammate and roommate of Michael Corbat at Harvard, said the Citigroup CEO taught him how to put a crease in his khakis.

Corbat, for his part, used football as a jumping-off point to talk banking. They’re both contact sports, he said. Another comparison: “As a lineman, you look around and you think, ‘Wow, there are more referees out there than there are players,’” Corbat said, recalling his own position when he played for Harvard. “Certainly in banking, we feel that way.”

Michael Corbat and Gary Vura

Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

No referee was necessary when Corbat met a former opponent, Gary Vura of Guggenheim Securities, the University of Pennsylvania senior quarterback in a 1982 game Harvard lost.

“The first half we played poorly, and then we got our stuff together,” Corbat said. “We staged a comeback, it was 21-20, and it came down to the infamous kick,” he said, referring to a UPenn field goal with no time left on the clock.

Fortunately, for the sake of warm recollection, Corbat’s team went on to thump Yale 45-7 a week later.

As for the football contest not just Ivy Leaguers care about: Corbat said he’s conflicted about which team to root for in the Super Bowl.

The Connecticut native has a “natural affinity” for the Patriots, but his wife is from Georgia. “She’s rooting for the Falcons and there’s a part of me that wants to root for the Falcons. It could be a little bit of North versus South.”

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