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Prepare for victory

Brad Alge knows all about winning teams.

A member of the 1988 national champion Notre Dame football team, Alge is an associate professor and area coordinator in organizational behavior and human resource management in Purdue’s Krannert School of Management. It’s his goal to help prepare students to go into the HR field and help build championship teams at their organizations.

“Some of those early experiences in team sports motivated me to go into the field of human resources,” says Alge, who joined the Krannert faculty in 1999. “It’s all about human capital and motivating people toward a common goal.”

A native of Warren, Ohio, Alge had the opportunity to play at one of the service academies or Division II or III football. He opted, though, to pursue the dream of walking on at Notre Dame, where he played for a man he called “one of the most influential people in my life,” coach Lou Holtz.

“Coach Holtz was a stickler for perfection. He also was a great motivator. I think he had what a lot of leaders lack…he was transformational, not transactional, in the way he dealt with people,” Alge says.

After graduating from Notre Dame and spending time as a consultant with Accenture, Alge pursued a career as a football coach. He served as a grad assistant coach at Kent State University while earning his MBA. He was considering another coaching opportunity at the University of Akron when he decided it was time to reassess his future.

“I didn’t think I wanted to continue coaching like a journeyman, working 80-90 hours a week for low pay,” Alge says. “My dad was a teacher and high school coach, and I realized I shared his passion for teaching and mentoring students.”

Alge had two options. He could return to school for two more years to get his teaching license in Ohio, or go to school for four years and earn a doctorate. He decided on the latter, and received a PhD from Ohio State University.

An award-winning teacher and researcher, Alge has stayed true to his roots. The father of four children between the ages of 3 and 12, he’s active coaching little league football. He also is working on a paper with fellow Krannert faculty member Jungpil Hahn, former Krannert professor Ranga Ramanujam, and doctoral alum David Lehman on risk-taking in organizations.

The researchers studied 22,603 fourth-down decisions made by the 32 National Football League teams across 1,520 games over six seasons, where coaches had to decide whether to punt (a less-risky decision) or go for it (a more-risky decision).

As expected, the likelihood of a team attempting a risky fourth-down conversion was largely determined by how many points the team had scored relative to its opponent. For teams trailing their opponent, an inverted U-shaped performance–risk relationship emerged.

Teams way behind or slightly behind engaged in less risk than teams moderately behind. However, this relationship was more pronounced as the end of the game approached. The effects of performance on risk-taking were thus moderated by deadline proximity, such that the relationship became stronger as the end of each game drew nearer.

Although Alge remains true to his alma mater, he has developed a fondness for another team with gold helmets…the Boilermakers.

“Purdue is a great place,” Alge says. “I have a great amount of pride to tell people I work and teach here. Wherever I go, I run into people who want to learn more about our programs.”