Students and Faculty Face Off in Trivia Challenge
The Yale SOM Student-Faculty Challenge began in 2007, inspired by the CNBC Fast Money Challenge, a televised contest between top MBA programs that Yale SOM won. That student team then came back and defeated a panel of faculty in a squeaker. The faculty triumphed in 2008 and the students again came out on top in 2009, which left the series at 2-1 in favor of the students coming into the 2010 contest, which was held on November 18.
The Yale SOM challenge is designed as a fun contest between four students and four faculty. This year's student team consisted of Philip Kroeger '12, Rasheq Rahman '11, Brad Galiette '11, and Balaji Venkataraman '12; the faculty team consisted of Andrew Metrick, Keith Chen, Ahmed Khwaja, and Arthur Campbell.
True to form, Metrick, who dominated portions of the 2008 event, jumped right in, choosing to answer the first question even before temporary master of ceremonies Barry Nalebuff could finish reading it. He got it wrong. But so did the student group when given a chance to answer. "You are still tied," said Nalebuff, trying to sound encouraging.
The Challenge had five rounds of competition. Throughout the first, a simple Q&A, there was a tight race, as both teams ended with 45,000 points. Questions included naming the first hybrid car sold in the United States (Honda Insight), providing the name of the convicted former CEO of Tyco (Dennis Kozlowski), and deciphering what EBITDA stands for (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization). Nalebuff, who stood in for Dean Sharon Oster while she hurried home from a trip, seemed relieved to be asking the questions rather than answering them. "The difference between this year and last year is I was sitting in Andrew's chair," he said to raucous laughter from the large pro-student crowd.
Round 2 was focused on six categories: Sports, Fast Food, DOJ, Politics, Reality TV, and People (Yale SOM Professor) Paul Bracken Knows. The faculty began the round by choosing Politics, followed by the students, who went with Sports. Upon hearing this, Chen, who teaches Game Theory, let out a triumphant laugh. "You've already shown your weakness," he declared. "We never would've chosen Sports. Have I taught you nothing in Game Theory?" The students, he said, should have focused on getting the faculty to choose its weak spot (Sports) rather than choosing that category because it fit their strength.
Nevertheless, the students dominated the round, pulling out to a lead of 105,000 to 65,000.
After Round 3, a stock symbol identification game, the students held the lead at 155,000 to 110,000. Round 4, also known as the Hot Seat, allowed an individual to bet how many points he wanted to risk on a question. The faculty lost ground, and trailed the students 175,000 to 75,000 with only Metrick left to answer. He bet the entire 75,000. The question: What is the only company that was part of the original Dow Jones Industrial Average of 1896 still on the list? Metrick: "General Electric." The crowd groaned at the correct answer, and the competition continued, now with students up only 175,000 to 150,000.
The Challenge is for fun; no one is supposed to take it too seriously. But as the competition neared its end, the tension rose. In order to win, the faculty needed to score a large victory in the final round, in which the team gets a series of clues to a single question. Get the answer after the first clue and earn 100,000; each additional clue slices 20,000 off the score.
The faculty answered their final question after four clues, leaving them at 190,000 points. The students needed to get the answer to their question within four clues to win. After two clues, most people in the room knew the answer to the question, about an adventurous CEO hailing from England: Virgin founder Richard Branson. The students played it safe and didn't solve it until they were at the 40,000-point level.
Final score: 215,000 to 190,000.
The students won, making their record 3-1. But as Oster noted, the margin was reasonably small, historically speaking. "This was a close competition," she said.