Improving University Rankings: Lessons Learned From the Movie 'Moneyball'

UNT DALL. L. REV. ON THE CUSP (2022- 2023).

48 Pages Posted: 30 Dec 2020 Last revised: 12 Apr 2023

See all articles by Munir Quddus

Munir Quddus

Prairie View A&M University - College of Business

Lawrence J. Trautman

Prairie View A&M University - College of Business; Texas A&M University School of Law (By Courtesy)

Date Written: December 29, 2020


Can there be a bigger challenge for a dean facing an accreditation visit than deficiencies in faculty scholarship metrics? Given the publication lead-time (sometimes two years between manuscript completion and actually being available in print), for many deans, this will be a crisis with no immediate, easy answer. If a school has not previously hired with scholarship metrics in mind and employed strategies to empower faculty to publish, this may be a problem without a comfortable short-term remedy. Internal, organic growth of publication metrics tends not to happen quickly, and not-at-all without communication of it being a priority “at the top.” This topic and case study has profound academic, financial and reputational implications for institutions of higher education everywhere. U.S. News & World Report has announced that rankings of U.S. law schools will soon include a proxy for scholarship metrics. Can business schools be far behind?

We live in an age that is obsessed with personal and institutional branding, competition and rankings. In our contemporary culture almost nothing escapes rating by some authority. Cities are rated by unemployment rate, cost of living and climate. Olympic athletes are ranked by appropriate measurements. Professional sports teams are ranked by conference in their quest to win the World Series or Super Bowl. While professional athletes are rated for batting average, runs batted-in, whatever measurement is relevant ̶ almost everything in life that has a value is rated by some metric(s), provided by a credible rating authority. These ratings or rankings are then widely circulated in the regular and social media. They become an important part of the branding efforts and are readily available on the institutional webpage, social media communications and of course on the Internet. This paper contributes to the debate about business school curriculum, rankings, relevance, scholarly impact and value to current and future students. The paper draws lessons from the 2011 movie, Moneyball, based on Michael Lewis’ 2003 bestseller, Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game. The book depicts the unlikely success of baseball’s Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane [played by Brad Pitt] as he attempts to build a Major League championship-winning team in face of competition from teams with much larger salary budget for professional baseball players. Billy Beane out-thinks other team managers by hiring a recent Yale economics graduate (fictional character Peter Brand) and by employing computer-generated statistical analysis (in reality, sabermetrics) to identify and recruit undervalued young players and inexpensive discarded veterans. This paper is based on our experience, perspectives and success working in a College of Business in a mid-size, public university in Texas. However, the challenges we face -- limited resources, and working within the bureaucratic framework of a public university-- are applicable to many disciplines, programs, and universities. The same issues, challenges and strategies should be applicable to law schools and all other disciplines. We believe that parallels may be drawn to the plight of less-endowed educational institutions as they seek to stand out in a crowded marketplace, and excel via creative strategies, despite being relatively resource-poor compared to bigger and wealthier colleges and universities.

Keywords: academic search engine optimization, Australian Business Deans Council (ABDC), Cabell’s, citations, data analytics, Google Scholar, HBCU, Moneyball, research, performance measurement, publishing, scholarly impact, Scopus, SEO, SSRN, tenure, university rankings, UT Dallas List, ISI Web of Science™

JEL Classification: A11, A20, I20, I23, K22

Suggested Citation

Quddus, Munir and Trautman, Lawrence J., Improving University Rankings: Lessons Learned From the Movie 'Moneyball' (December 29, 2020). UNT DALL. L. REV. ON THE CUSP (2022- 2023). , Available at SSRN: or

Munir Quddus

Prairie View A&M University - College of Business ( email )

Prairie View, TX
United States
7137758723 (Phone)

Lawrence J. Trautman (Contact Author)

Prairie View A&M University - College of Business ( email )

Prairie View, TX
United States

Texas A&M University School of Law (By Courtesy) ( email )

1515 Commerce St.
Fort Worth, TX Tarrant County 76102
United States

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