There were definite rumblings in February. Should the University build a statue of Sarah Patterson? Certainly the accolades were all there: seven SEC championships, five national championships and many other achievements.
But if they were merely rumblings in February, they have turned into screams and shouts in April. Patterson led Alabama to its sixth national championship on Saturday, and second in a row. Her six championships tied the legendary Paul “Bear” Bryant, the football coach immortalized in Alabama history.
They started where most trends start: Twitter.
“We have to get a statue up for Coach P, have to,” tweeted Carson Tinker, long snapper for the Alabama football team.
On Twitter, #StatueForSarah appeared; only fueling the discussion.
“Six for Bryant. Six for Patterson. Should equal a #StatueforSarah,” tweeted Kevin Scarbinsky, columnist for the Birmingham News.
Online, an overwhelming 91.16 percent of 622 people responded to a DailyBamaBlog.com poll in favor of building Patterson a statue.
“Those are the best college football coaches in the nation, active and lifetime divisions and Patterson has earned the right to be mentioned in the same sentence,” Scarbinsky wrote the next day in the Birmingham News. “That should be the end of the statue discussion and the beginning of the design process.”
But Patterson is quick to dispel any talk about a statue in her honor. Immediately following the championship meet, a reporter asked her about the statue talk that ensued.
“I don’t know if bronze is in my color chart, how about that?” she said.
If there is anyone who can get a straight answer out of a coach, it’s Paul Finebaum, the Alabama talk radio host known for his dry personality. Patterson was a guest on Finebaum’s show Tuesday, and when he asked her about a potential statue, she deflected, telling him that she was happy to be just a small part of Alabama’s history.
“You’re forcing me to ask you the question again,” the reporter said. “Are we going to see a Sarah Patterson statue?”
“I don’t think so,” she said. “To me, it’s all about the athletes.”
And that’s just part of Patterson’s character — always trying to move the spotlight away from herself and instead shine it on others.
There isn’t exactly a precedent on statues for prominent figures in women’s athletics. At Alabama, it’s certainly there for the football coaches — win a national championship, and you get a statue.
Pat Summit, the legendary women’s basketball coach at Tennessee, does not have a permanent monument in her honor in Knoxville. Geno Auriemma does not have one at the University of Connecticut. Alabama would certainly be entering unfamiliar territory if it did decide to build Sarah Patterson a statue.
Athletic Director Mal Moore has perhaps been the most tight-lipped on the issue. Don Kausler of al.com finally caught up with Moore as the team was returning from Duluth, Ga. He asked Moore if there were plans for something like a statue to memorialize Patterson.
“We have plans on how we’re going to do this, so that’s coming,” he told Kausler with a smile. “So, keep in touch.”