How did academic quality rankings of colleges and universities become so powerful in higher education? A review of their historical development in the first section of this study may surprise many readers. While college professors and administrators alike largely decry rankings today, their origin lies in academia itself. Begun as esoteric studies by lone professors, college rankings' development into the most popularly accepted assessment of academic quality was fueled by the very institutions of higher education they now judge. While the purpose and design of academic quality rankings has evolved during the century since their creation, their history teaches one clear lesson: college rankings fill a strong consumer demand for information about institutional quality, and as such, are here to stay for the foreseeable future.