Sunday, September 9, 2007

At last some honesty (and perspective) about rankings

In the wake of Appalachian State's defeat of Michigan, there has been interminable discussion around my college town about rankings of college football teams.  Almost rivals the feeding frenzy around the US News rankings of law schools--almost, but not quite.  At last this morning's Newsday brings some honesty about rankings, a quotation from the man who started the AP rankings of college teams back in 1936:

The idea of a national poll, Alan Gould said when he introduced it for AP in 1936, was "to develop interest and controversy between football Saturdays. Newspapers wanted material to fill space between games. That's all I had in mind, something to keep the pot boiling. Sports was living off controversy, opinion, whatever. This was just another exercise in hoopla."

Isn't what this law school rankings business is all about--some more hoopla?  It sells some copies of US News, gives deans and students some bragging rights, and gives us in the academy something to shoot for and something to talk about.  But Mr. Gould helps us keep these sorts of things in perspective.

Now, back to work on my essay on Thomas Roderick Dew's Digest of the Laws, Customs, Manners, and Institutions of Ancient and Modern Nations.

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