Sarah Patterson couldn’t have imagined this when she had to lobby for funds from then-athletic director Paul “Bear” Bryant for an exercise mat when she first started 34 years ago.
Along with the other UA coaches and programs with SEC and national titles, the legendary Alabama gymnastics coach will be honored with a commemorative plaza outside of Coleman Coliseum that will be named in Patterson’s honor. The UA Board of Trustees approved the project on Friday.
“It’s truly an honor. I can’t think of a better way to recognize the accomplishments of our athletes that my husband and I have coached for 34 years,” Patterson said. “I think one of the most memorable moments for me right now is the fact that I get to share this with [softball coach] Patrick Murphy and [women’s golf coach] Mic Potter as the next two championship coaches.
“Football has won, gymnastics has won, but this year being the year of champions and setting the tone and a standard of excellence, I think for our fans that have been wanting something like this, I hope they embrace this and realize that I can think of no better way that the university could honor the championship tradition that we’ve been a part of.”
The memorial, which will officially be called the Sarah Patterson Memorial Plaza, will be located in the grassy area just past Sewell-Thomas Stadium. It will feature a wall complete with plaques recognizing every SEC and national championship team as well as a special plaque for each national championship-winning coach.
Multiple locations were considered for the plaza, but renderings were only done for one spot.
“This is a way the board felt, that I felt, that would be a way of saying thanks for a great career and a great effort on her part through the years,” Athletic Director Mal Moore said.
Moore said the decision to name the plaza after Patterson was justified because of the success she has had in building the gymnastics program from essentially nothing. Since taking over in 1978, Patterson has won seven Southeastern Conference championships and six NCAA championships, including the last two years in a row
“I don’t really feel like this is about me,” Patterson said. “I think this is about the university, and I think this is about recognizing that for everyone, championships, tradition, family excellence, all of those things are what we stand for.”
Planning for the project began almost two years ago, according to Moore, and plans were already in place before the Tide won four national championships in 2012.
Many Tide fans clamored for a “Statue for Sarah,” but the plaza named in her honor will serve as a lifelong memorial for the coach, who reiterated that she isn’t going anywhere just yet.
“She’s been here  years, started from scratch, has built it to one if not the top program in the country, consistently in the national championship picture,” Moore said. “All that’s hard to do. But she’s got a great program established and we try to support her in every way possible.”
Patterson and her husband David were thrilled with the announcement of the project.
“That’s an honor for my family,” Patterson said. “While I’ve been on the front line, it’s been a partnership with David for 34 years. How many people can say that they’ve worked with their spouse for 34 years? And he still puts up with me? It’s us together.”