The following biographical sketch was compiled at the time of induction into the Academy in 2022.
Sarah Patterson served as head coach of the University of Alabama’s gymnastics team for thirty-six years. During her tenure, Patterson’s teams won six NCAA Championships and eight SEC titles. Throughout her entire career, Patterson won twenty-nine NCAA regional championships and recorded more than 1,000 wins. She coached teams to an NCAA best: twenty-two top three finishes at the National Championships. Patterson was the first coach in SEC history, regardless of sport, to win NCAA titles in four different decades, winning in 1988, 1991, 1996, 2002, 2011, and 2012.
Sarah and her husband, David, began coaching at the University of Alabama (UA) in the fall of 1978. The duo quickly turned around a program that had been through four years (and four coaches) without a winning season. Together, they built a gymnastics program that led the Crimson Tide to championship performances in the gym and produced successful student athletes in the classroom.
Under the Pattersons’ direction, UA gymnasts earned 289 All-American honors and twenty-four individual NCAA championships. Eight Crimson Tide athletes earned the Honda Award, presented annually to the nation’s top gymnast. UA gymnasts earned twenty-one NCAA postgraduate scholarships, leading the nation by a healthy margin, as well as 189 Scholastic All-Americans and 262 SEC Academic Honor Roll accolades.
Sarah Patterson is a four-time recipient of National Coach of the Year, and a four-time recipient of SEC Coach of the Year. In 2003, she was inducted into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame. Patterson served as the senior women’s administrator at UA from 1985 to 1996 and the associate athletics director for community and university relations from 1996 to 2014. She also completed stints on the SEC Executive Committee, the NCAA Women’s Gymnastics Committee, and the NCAA Recruiting Committee
During her storied career, Patterson developed a national reputation for her marketing prowess. One of her favorite memories is from a 1997 meet against rival, the University of Georgia. This matchup became UA Gymnastics’ first sold- out meet with over 15,000 fans in attendance. UA went on to achieve eleven sell-outs during Patterson’s career.
In addition to her coaching duties, Patterson was the driving force behind the Power of Pink initiative. Created in 2004, this local effort partners with UA Gymnastics to raise awareness in the fight against breast cancer. The initiative has contributed $2.1 million to the DCH Breast Cancer Fund to help prevent, detect, and treat breast cancer in uninsured women. Similar efforts have exploded into a nationwide cause, with numerous college and professional sports teams conducting similar initiatives in their communities.
In 2013, the University of Alabama dedicated the Sarah Patterson Champions Plaza in Patterson’s honor. The Plaza sits in front of Coleman Coliseum, the home of UA gymnastics, honoring championship teams at the Capstone.
Patterson retired from coaching in 2014 and found new ways to serve her community. A longtime United Way advocate, she served as the 2017 United Way of West Alabama fundraising campaign chair. At the request of Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox, Patterson serves on the Elevate Tuscaloosa board and on the board for Tuscaloosa Tourism and Sports. In addition to serving her community, she enjoys spending time with her family, traveling, and scrapbooking.