Champions Plaza honors Patterson, other UA coaches


Kevin Connell

Sarah Patterson had a lot of dreams as a 23-year-old gymnastics coach hired fresh out of Slippery Rock State College by legendary Alabama football coach and then-athletics director Paul “Bear” Bryant in the summer of 1978. Since then, she’s lived out many of those dreams, but at the same time there was always something she never thought was possible.

Patterson, a six-time national champion as Alabama gymnastics coach, was formally recognized Friday afternoon with the ribbon-cutting ceremony of the Sarah Patterson Champions Plaza.

“Yesterday, I was asked if I could ever have dreamed of a day like today. My answer was no,” Patterson said. “As a young coach, I had a lot of dreams, but I could never have envisioned this.”

Delivering the keynote address in front of a supportive crowd, Patterson was visibly emotional in thanking a number of people who helped and supported her throughout her career, including her husband and fellow coach, David Patterson; her high school coach, Jo Childs and her college coach, Cheryl Levick.

UA president Judy Bonner, athletics director Bill Battle and Paul Bryant Jr., Bryant’s son, were also among those present at the ceremony.

Though she carries the namesake of the plaza, Patterson wasn’t the only Crimson Tide head coach acknowledged at the ceremony for winning a national championship at Alabama. Sitting alongside Patterson at the ceremony were other national champion coaches, Patrick Murphy (softball), Mic Potter (women’s golf) and Jay Seawell (men’s golf), who have all won a national championship within the past two years.

“We’ve all been here a long time. We all have the same vision and that’s the love of our players and the love of The University of Alabama,” Seawell said. “To be here with Pat and Sarah and Mic, to get a chance to do this together, to me, makes it even more special.”

The plaza, which was completed over the summer and sits in between Coleman Coliseum and Sewell-Thomas Stadium, recognizes every SEC and national championship won by non-football sports at Alabama and features a bust of every national championship-winning coach in school history.

The idea behind the plaza came from late athletics director Mal Moore, who sought to both honor Patterson for her accomplishments, as well as all other Alabama sports.

In the spring of 2012, Moore called Patterson, Potter and Seawell into his office to bring his plans for the plaza to their attention. Though Patterson was the only coach in the group to have a won a national championship at that point, Potter and Seawell, along with Murphy, soon won national titles of their own following the meeting.

“At the time, it was hard for me to understand why I was in that meeting,” Potter said. “But three or four weeks later we won the national championship. That was great foresight on [Moore’s] part.”