Four students from the University of Florida won the 14th Annual Race & Case competition put on by the University of Denver’s Daniels College of Business Feb. 24-25. Each year business students tackle a complex, real-life business case, presenting a solution to a panel of judges. This year, students were challenged to identify ways in which Chipotle Mexican Grill could address ethical and leadership issues related to food contamination and the financial fallout as a result. In addition, each team competed in a ski race, held in Breckenridge.

“Rather than provide teams with a historical case situation, this year’s Chipotle case put competitors in the position of Chipotle CEO Steve Ells and required them to take a broad, multi-disciplinary approach to addressing the company’s current challenges”, said Assistant Professor Paul Seaborn, who co-authored the case with Adjunct Professor Bud Bilanich. “The winning teams provided compelling and creative strategic recommendations for Chipotle that addressed issues spanning management, marketing, operations, finance, corporate governance, sustainability and ethics.”

This year, 14 teams were selected to compete in the competition. They include teams from American University, London Business School, Simon Fraser University, the University of Florida, the University of South Carolina, the University of Utah, Georgia Tech University, the University of Wisconsin, the University of Southern California, the University of Alabama, Purdue University, Rice University, Vanderbilt University and the University of Denver.

“This is a great opportunity for graduate business students to apply the knowledge they gain in the classroom in a practical and meaningful way and gain helpful feedback from business leaders in the industry,” says Daniels Dean E. LaBrent Chrite. “Unlike other case competitions, we also give it a Colorado flair with the race element, making it a fun and unique experience for participants.”

The winning team was the University of Florida. Team members Michelle Gassman, Kimberly Zwerner, Mark Jacobs and Kevin Potts received $12,000 from a $25,000 prize pool. Second place went to the University of Alabama and third place to Vanderbilt University.

“It was clear from the presentations and the judges feedback that all of our teams had immersed themselves in the challenges facing Chipotle and spent considerable time formulating their recommendations,” Seaborn said. “The level of competition amongst the 14 teams was very high and as the case author it was inspiring to see the deep insight and creativity that the winning teams delivered in their presentations.”

The major sponsors for this year’s event were Toyota and Vail Resorts. Daniels would like to thank the judges who volunteered their time to score the competing teams. They were: Lorrie Crume, vice president of Corporate Communications for CH2M, Laura Durkheimer, director of project management at Comcast, Douglas Jackson, president and CEO of Project C.U.R.E., Andrew Jacob, chief vice president, regulatory, legislative and compliance officer for CoBank, Joel Jacobson, corporate attorney at Rubicon Law, Timothy Kolbus, vice president of global logistics solutions at Arrow Electronics, Michael McFadden, senior vice president, strategy and account development at EffectiveUI and Brian Smith, director of business rental sales at Enterprise Holdings.