What do Boxing and Business Schools Have in Common?

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Everyone knows that the rating of pugilists by the various boxing authorities is, how shall we say this, highly problematic.

There are four main boxing associations: the International Boxing Federation (IBF), the World Boxing Association (WBA), the World Boxing Council (WBC) and the World Boxing Organization (WBO). This, alone, seemingly, would be bad enough; the fact that there are numerous other institutional ratings agencies — the International Boxing Association, the International Boxing Council, the International Boxing Organization, the International Boxing Union, the World Boxing Federation, the World Boxing Union, and FightNews — renders matters utterly chaotic.

But one does not have to resort to these others to show the depths of depravity to which ratings have sunk. The "Big Four" will do fine in this regard, thank you very much.

Consider the following (as of September 5, 2001):

  • Mike Tyson is rated first contender by the WBC, 5th by the IBF, 6th by the WBA, and not at all by the WBO
  • Hasim Rahman is the WBC and IBF champ, but does not appear in the top ten of the WBA and WBO
  • The only heavyweights listed as elite in all four rankings are Vitali Klitschko, Lennox Lewis and David Tua
  • As far as the WBC, WBA and IBF are concerned, Roy Jones is the best light heavyweight; he is not included in the WBO top ten
  • Bernard Hopkins (WBC, IBF) and Felix Trinidad (WBA) are middleweight champions; but neither is listed even as an also ran by the WBO
  • Only Hector Camacho and Oktay Urkal make the top ten cut for all four Super Lightweights
  • Floyd Mayweather (WBC), Joel Casamayor (WBA), Steve Forbes (IBF) and Acelino Freitas (WBO) all have super featherweight championship belts; but none is so much as mentioned by any of the other three
  • Only Naseem Hamed is a top 10 featherweight for all four boxing organizations; Julio Chacon (WBO), Frankie Toledo (IBF), Derrick Gainer (WBA) and Erik Morales (WBC) are champs, but none are included as contenders by any of the other big four

Ok. So the fight game has always been not just a little bit unsavory. But what are we to make of a similar situation with regard to, of all things, graduate schools of business?

There are three widely respected periodicals which rate business schools by ranking them in terms of quality. They are The Wall Street Journal, Business Week Magazine, and U.S. News and World Report. Despite the undoubted prestige of these three, sharp criticisms have been leveled at their treatment of the leading colleges of business.

For example, while Dartmouth College was ranked number 1 by the Wall Street Journal, it garnered only 11th place as far as U.S. News and World Report was concerned, and slipped to 16th position in Business Week’s compilation.

If these widely disparate ranks for one institution of higher learning were not enough to cast doubt upon the veracity of the ratings, consider the following: the B schools of only Harvard, Chicago, Northwestern and Michigan made top ten on the hit parade of all three magazines. None of the other preeminent places, not Stanford, not Yale, not the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, were posted in this category by all three sets of journalists.

Worse, not a one of these supposedly objective newspapers placed the Joseph A. Butt, S.J., College of Business at Loyola University New Orleans in any of their top ten places.

However, something deeper than mere sleaze would appear to account for these obvious errors. The rankings disparity, as can be seen, is by no means limited to the "sweet science." Further, Consumer Reports does not always agree with Good Housekeeping, and the two of them are often out of step with yet other ratings agencies.

The reason for all the diversity stems, ultimately, from the fact that ranking services are a private, for-profit industry. There is competition between firms, and differences of opinion almost necessarily arise in such contexts.

Some people call for the government to intervene in such circumstances, to rationalize matters, to bring order out of the chaos.

But this would be a step in precisely the wrong direction.

Competition always brings a better product than public sector socialism. Yes, things can get messy there, but that is the continually churning market for you. Governments, too, make mistakes (think Thalidomide!) We get more and better information from a myriad of sources, than from one monopoly state enterprise.

If you think we should have only one boxing organization under state control, do you think there should be only one governmental magazine rating MBA programs? Such periodicals disagree with one another not just on business college prestige, but with regard to many other things as well. If mere divergence of opinion warranted public sector control, the road to socialism would be greased even the more.

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