GOP needs a Saban-like leader

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 9, 2010

When Alabama claimed its 13th national title in college football Thursday night, it was the end of the Crimson Tide’s own “40 years in the wilderness.” OK, maybe it wasn’t quite 40 years, but I’m sure it felt that long to the Tide faithful.

For the longest time, college football pundits said Alabama was dead in the water. Probation, scandal and turmoil were the hallmarks of a Crimson Tide program that went through four different coaches in just four years at one point (Mike Dubose, Dennis Franchione, Mike Price, Mike Shula).

All that changed when President Robert Witt and Athletic Director Mal Moore united in the same vision and made the same commitment to excellence by bringing in coach Nick Saban to lead the team. It’s a cliché to say it, but it’s absolutely true: “What a difference a coach makes.”

In fact, it’s a message that should resonate among walks of life besides sports. You can have all the advantages, talent and skills in the world, but without someone that can lead the team with a focused vision, you’re not going to be as successful as you could be. This fact holds true, whether you’re talking about sports, business or even politics.

After President Barack Obama was elected in 2008 and the Democratic Party expanded its control of both houses of the U.S. Congress, political commentators began to say that the Republican Party was almost extinct — sound familiar Tide fans?

In just one year, the fortunes of the Republican Party appear to be much more promising. Obama’s presidential ratings have plummeted, two Democratic senators have announced their retirements and most “generic ballot” polls show voters choosing the Republican candidate over the Democratic one. But the Republican Party still has a major problem that will prevent it from completely changing the face of Washington, D.C. — it lacks a leader who can articulate a singular vision for the party.

There are those who are considered headliners in the party, such as Sarah Palin and Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele, but neither has proven the ability to galvanize the party toward one focused mission and vision. Ronald Reagan was this leader in the 1980s, Newt Gingrich provided the focused leader for the GOP’s 1994 “Contract with America” and George W. Bush (at least for a time) was the face of the Republican Party during its heyday in the early 2000s.

All early indications are that the GOP has an excellent chance to be the winning “team” in the 2010 election and beyond. But one thing is clear — they need their own “Nick Saban” to lead the way.