GymTiders take on Penn State

TUSCALOOSA, ALA -- After opening its season with a decisive win at the Super Six Challenge, No. 2 Alabama faces Penn State this Friday (Jan. 16) in Coleman Coliseum starting at 7:30 p.m.

Who: Alabama Gymnastics vs. Penn State
What: The Nittany Lions' first dual meet in Tuscaloosa since 2000.
When: Friday, Jan. 16 -- doors open at 5:30 pm and the meet starts at 7:30 pm
Where: Coleman Coliseum -- Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Why: Anytime two of the most storied schools in collegiate history get together, there's bound to be excitement in the air.
Tickets: Available through the Alabama Ticket Office (205.348.2262) or online at www.rolltide.comm

The doors to the arena will open at 5:30 p.m. and the first 200 children 8 and under through the doors will receive an Alabama Gymnastics t-shirt. The Crimson Tide will also be unveiling the banner for the 2003 Southeastern Conference Championship. A poster commemorating the 2003 SEC Championship poster will also be given out at the door as will schedule magnets.

For the Nittany Lions, Friday is their season opener and for the Crimson Tide it will be a different kind of start.

"Last weekend was like competing in a four ring circus," Patterson said. "Everything was going on at once and there was so much to watch and see. And that was great for us because it allowed us to start things off in the same atmosphere that we will see again at the end of the season at the SEC and NCAA Championships. Now we're preparing for a different kind of meet."

Chief among the difference between last week's six-team, six-rotation event and this Friday's meet will be the fact that Alabama and Penn State will alternate routines.

"While last week was a lot of fun and there was a lot going on at once, Friday will give the fans the opportunity to see each routine from both teams and the meet will run much quicker," Patterson said. "Those are things most people really like about the dual meet format."

Since the football series ended in 1990, gymnastics is the only sport in which the two legendary schools regularly meet. In fact, the Nittany Lions are Alabama's most-met non-conference opponent. The two teams have faced each other in the regular season every year but one, since their first meeting in 1983. The one regular season gap in the series came in 1992, but even that year, they did meet at the NCAA Championships.

The first meeting in the series almost didn't happen. On the way to that meet Patterson got word that legendary Alabama football coach and athletics director Paul "Bear" Bryant had died.

"We heard the news while driving to the meet," Patterson said. "We pulled over on the side of the road between Pittsburgh and Penn State and called back to the athletic department. I asked if we should come back, but they told us that Coach Bryant would have wanted us to compete, so that's what we did."

Wearing black ribbons on their leotards to honor Bryant, Alabama went on to beat Penn State by two points that day.

Friday marks the first time Penn State has been competed in Tuscaloosa since the 2000 season having faced Alabama on the neutral ground of the Super Six Challenge the last two seasons and hosting the Tide in 2001.

"Penn State, year-in and year-out is a very good team," Patterson said. "They are always on my radar as a team to watch out for."

Tickets are available through the Alabama Ticket Office (205.348.2262) located in the lobby of Coleman Coliseum or online at www.rolltide.com.


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