A Lasting Legacy

A Lasting Legacy

Sarah Patterson, left, started the Power of Pink cause when she was head coach of the gymnastics team in 2005. CW File

If football at Alabama is king, then Sarah Patterson was queen. No other Alabama figure led with such grace and charm as Patterson. She isn’t the most legendary figure – not even she could come close to eclipsing Paul "Bear" Bryant. 

She retired as the head coach of Alabama gymnastics over the summer after winning six national championships. Her team fell short of a seventh in April. Two uncharacteristic falls kept Patterson just shy of having coached the most national championship winning teams in school history, a record she shares with Bryant.

She retired as the winningest coach in Alabama history after racking up 1,006 wins in her 36 years at Alabama. Her teams made 32 consecutive NCAA Championship appearances from 1983-2014. Every year since the inception of the Elite 89 award, which honors the athlete with the highest grade point average at a championship, Alabama has won it. Sixty-six athletes under Patterson earned 302 All-America honors.

“It’s incredible,” women’s basketball coach Kristy Curry said. “When you look at what she’s done so long over [36] years, the consistency of it, not just a year here or there, but year in and year out, year in and year out competing for a national championship, and it’s really hard to get to that point, but it’s even harder to sustain it. The way she sustained it with great class and integrity and passion is absolutely amazing.”

Patterson didn’t do it alone. Her husband, David, stepped down as Alabama’s volunteer assistant coach, a position he held since 2008 after serving 30 years as an associate head coach. 

The two put together a national powerhouse which led the nation in top four finishes, top three finishes and Super Six Team Finals appearances with 27, 22 and 20 respectively. Alabama also won an NCAA-best 29 Regional Team Championships under the Pattersons’ leadership.

“I think it’s just remarkable,” softball coach Patrick Murphy said. “First, for a couple to be at one school, both of them over 30 years, is incredible. That just doesn’t happen. So their loyalty and their love for Alabama is probably unsurpassed by – I mean, I don’t think I can even describe it, just beyond the championships and the All-Americans, all those things, one of the coolest things that they can say is they brought the Power of Pink, and it spread across the country so it’s quite the legacy.”

In 2005, Sarah Patterson started the Power of Pink initiative after she had trouble passing a routine mammogram. Though she was breast cancer free, she wanted to do something for those who didn’t have access to prime health insurance like she did. Power of Pink was and still is a way to do that. 

Power of Pink, now in its 11th year, has raised more than $1.35 million for the DCH Breast Cancer Fund. It extends beyond gymnastics. Every women's sport at the University participates. 

“I feel that the Power of Pink initiative has grown to be such a large production that to be able to continue to use gymnastics as a platform to educate women on early detection, and being able to somehow be a part of helping the fund grow so people can have the opportunity to walk up and get a mammogram if they can’t afford it, that’s something I hope Alabama gymnastics can be part of forever, because you’re making a difference,” current gymnastics head coach Dana Duckworth said. “You’re learning that what you do in the gym is great, but being able to use the tools you have to go to a whole other level, that’s what life is about. Life is about giving back, so it’s using the platform to be able to give back. That’s what I love.”

The Pattersons will be recognized at this year’s Power of Pink meet Friday.

CW Staff Kayla Montgomery and Elliott Propes contributed to the reporting of this story.

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