Thanks for the memories

Sarah Patterson has left a lasting legacy at The University of Alabama

Sarah Patterson was named head coach of the Alabama Crimson Tide gymnastics team in 1978. She was hired by legendary Alabama football coach and athletic director Paul “Bear” Bryant, who was in the autumn of his career at the time. That same year, and the year after, Bryant won national championships before retiring in 1982.

Thirty-six years later, Sarah Patterson’s career has followed a similar trajectory. She won back-to-back championships in 2011 and 2012, tying Bryant’s school record of six national titles. Now, two years later, she too is retiring and is leaving behind an enduring legacy of success and sportsmanship.

It would be hard to imagine someone more dedicated to The University of Alabama. She took her job here immediately after graduating from college and never took another position. In her time at the University, she took a young, relatively obscure program and turned it into one of the nation’s best.

While creating a perennial powerhouse in gymnastics, Patterson also focused on developing her athletes outside of the sport. Since the debut of the Elite 89 Award in 2009, which honors the student-athlete with the highest GPA at a sport’s national championship site, a member of the Alabama gymnastics team has claimed it every year. Seventy-three student-athletes have earned 189 Scholastic All-American honors.

In 2013, the University dedicated the Sarah Patterson Champions Plaza to recognize her success and the success of other UA sports.

Patterson has been more than just head coach of UA gymnastics. She has actively supported the University of Alabama community and promoted other sports and campus groups at every opportunity. To The Crimson White, Patterson was always respectful and considerate. In fact, Patterson is, by her own admission, a regular reader of The Crimson White and promises to continue to follow the paper after her retirement. Those who interviewed her once or regularly have stories about how she seemed to care about them outside of a phone call or press conference.

Dana Duckworth comes to the head coach position as a former Alabama gymnast and two-time NCAA balance beam champion. She spent nine seasons as a volunteer coach and the past six seasons as an assistant coach. She has experienced national championships on both sides of the spectrum, as an athlete and a leader. Like Patterson, she has deep University of Alabama roots.

Dana Duckworth represents the next step and a seamless transition for Alabama gymnastics. Carrying on Sarah Patterson’s legacy, she will lead the gymnastics team forward. Students should continue to support the University of Alabama gymnastics dynasty with record attendance and enthusiasm.

The Crimson White wishes to extend our deepest thanks to Sarah Patterson – not for her six national championships or eight SEC Championships, but for the manner in which she has represented this university and conducted herself for nearly four decades. Patterson has worked tirelessly to positively affect the lives of the dozens of young ladies she has coached, everyone she has worked with and the entire Tuscaloosa community.

Above all, thanks, Coach, for the memories. Roll Tide.

Kelly Ward and Sean Landry, sports editors for The Crimson White, contributed to this Our View. Our View is the consensus of The Crimson White editorial board. 

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