Daniel Ruettiger overcame countless obstacles to fulfill a dream of playing football at the University of Notre Dame in the 1970s. His hard-luck-to-hero tale inspired the 1993 hit movie, “Rudy.”
Turns out he should have stuck to gulping Gatorade. He’s among 13 people accused of securities fraud in a complaint filed by the Securities and Exchange Commission.
At issue is an alternative sports drink company Ruettiger started with a college buddy. The SEC says that promoters of his beverage, Rudy Nutrition, artificially inflated the stock of the company by price making false claims.
One of those claims said that in “a major southwest test, Rudy outsold Gatorade 2 to 1.” As part of a penny stock scam, similar claims were made about Powerade, the SEC said.
That led to $11 million worth of stock sells in a product that few people actually drank. The company shut down after the SEC intervened in 2008.
"Investors were lured into the scheme by Mr. Ruettiger's well-known, feel-good story but found themselves in a situation that did not have a happy ending," the SEC’s Scott Friestad said in a statement.
To settle the charges with the SEC, Ruettiger has agreed to pay back nearly $400,000, but has neither admitted nor denied any wrongdoing. Friestad said the ringleader of scheme wasn’t Ruettiger but his neighbor, the penny stock promoter he hired.
The fact that Ruettiger wasn’t smart about who he hired harkens back to a central theme in “Rudy.” He had to beat a significant intellectual deficit to gain entrance into Notre Dame.
At the time, the school thrived as a football giant, while Ruettiger stood at only 5’6” and weighed 165 lbs. He overcame his physical shortcomings to achieve his dream, if only for a couple of plays, and was carried off the field by admiring teammates while fans cheered him.
It was a far cry from an otherwise likely destiny as a steel mill worker. Today, Ruettiger works as a motivational speaker. Given his SEC troubles, his message may now be as hard to swallow as Rudy Nutrition.
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Susan Hogan is a Star Tribune editorial writer.
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