There was an interesting conversation on Houston’s Sports Talk 790 yesterday. The host discussed problems facing the NFL’s professional team, the Indianapolis Colts; if you do not follow pro football or pro football talk, here is the basic break down. The Colts have been one of the most dominant teams over the past ten years. Furthermore, one consistent reason for said success is that of its star quarterback, Peyton Manning. Though Manning has been brilliant throughout his pro career, he has struggled some of late; in his defense, Manning has been operating with a patchwork of players around him due to injuries. I say all of this to draw my thoughts back on what the sports talk host alluded to. When a team promotes from within, often there is a vacuum in which the new leader is unable to fill. For the Colts, they promoted Jim Caldwell, a coach I think much of and one I greatly respect; however, he has had it easy until now. He inherited a team from Tony Dungy; a team with many of the same parts in place. The problem is too much continuity. He has faced a wall this season and has not found a way to deal with its challenge. Caldwell is a religious man, one who speaks softly and carries himself in the same light as that of his predecessor.
However, the challenge Caldwell faces with the Colts this season is a reason why top-tier institutions avoid inbreeding. In academic circles, the notion of academic inbreeding has a negative connotation. It promotes a sense of safety and an element of conservatism. It follows the law in that what is best is what is known. Any thought of deviating from conservative decisions is irresponsible. But, conservative thinking in hiring also promotes cultural and intellectual stagnation. Thus, many top-tier institutions believe that it is best to hire from outside rather than promote from within. Often times, promoting from within stifles growth and curiosity; it does not allow a leader to truly be a leader; he/she tends to fall back on the same patterns that already exists. My current school has started its search for a new academic leader. We are in the process of conducting a national search via a search firm, which is the responsible thing to do. This, in my opinion, is how top-tier schools function.
As for Harding University, it is no longer a secret that its current president will be stepping down very soon; I would like to encourage its board to break away from its third tier mentality in promoting from within. Please do not hire a current faculty member. I am sure there are a number of great candidates, but will they offer the type of political and intellectual diversity lacking at Harding?