Patterson Statue Is Appropriate

The lead columnist for the Birmingham News is calling for a statue for Alabama Gymnastics Coach Sarah Patterson, comparing her accomplishment of having won six national championships to legendary Crimson Tide Football Coach Paul Bryant winning six titles. There are notable differences, beginning with Birmingham News coverage of the events.

When Alabama won national championships in football beginning in the 1920s and continuing through last January, the lead columnist of the Birmingham News was on hand every step of the way, writing at least once a week on the progress during the season and being on press row for the critical match-ups. Now, johnny-come-lately, there is a hue and cry for a statue of Sarah Patterson from Birmingham, with a smirk towards the nation's most successful athletics department.

"What does a coach have to do to get a statue at the University of Alabama, anyway?" is the lead.

"What does a coach have to do to have the Birmingham News lead columnist check out a meet, and particularly the national championship competition?" Patterson might ask.

First of all, put me in the camp that would not object to The University erecting a statue to Sarah Patterson.

She is a giant in her sport and a tremendous asset for Alabama's reputation of having true student-athletes. Her "ladies," as she calls them, win in the arena and in the classroom and community. Bama home meets are "happenings," with a large and loyal following.

Last weekend, the Crimson Tide women won the national championship for Alabama for the sixth time and second year in a row. It was a dramatic victory as Ashley Priess – who had been unable to compete a year ago because she was recovering from surgery on both ankles – came through as the final competitor of the night to give Bama the win over Florida.

But this is not the same as winning a national championship in football.

There are few women's college gymnastics teams, and of those fewer than a handful that are truly competitive for a national championship. Since 1982 there have been only four schools taking home the crown – Utah with nine championships, Georgia with eight, Alabama six, and UCLA five.

Can you imagine Alabama football defeating Auburn over 100 consecutive games? That's what Bama gymnastics has done to a non-competing Auburn program.

Quick! Who is the top gymnastics prospect on Alabama's radar?

It is not the same as football.

Alabama's athletics department made $31 million last year, almost all of that profit from football. Gymnastics, like most sports at The University, is a money loser. In fact, in the most recent reports, the school's biggest money loser.

Of course, it is not Patterson's fault that her sport is not loaded with real competitors. She takes on the best the nation has to offer with success and does everything the right way.

So erect a statue to Sarah Patterson for her accomplishments as a gymnastics coach, but don't equate it to having done the same as Paul Bryant or better than Nick Saban.

One last thing about that statue: don't hire the same artist who did the one for Saban at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

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