Do You Like Promotions, Sam?

C.M. Newton tells the story of trying to drum up interest in basketball shortly after he took over the Crimson Tide program in 1968. Paul Bryant was not only Bama's football coach, he was also Alabama athletics director.

Newton went to Bryant with a list of promotional ideas to entice people to attend Alabama basketball games. The former Crimson Tide basketball coach remembers Bryant looking at him sternly and saying, "Just win. That's what the fans want."

No one can accuse Alabama Gymnastics Coach Sarah Patterson of not winning. She has had the Crimson Tide among the nation's top teams for over a quarter of a century. The Crimson Tide is ranked number one this year as it prepares to host Michigan at 7:30 p.m. Friday in Coleman Coliseum.

Patterson's teams not only win. The Crimson Tide also takes on the nation's top opponents. Many are in the tough Southeastern Conference, but the Tide is also a regular in meets against the best in the country from out of the SEC. Earlier this year Bama went to Norman to face Oklahoma, which was then ranked number one. This week's opponent, Michigan, is ranked 10th in the nation.

But Patterson hasn't been content to draw crowds just with winning. She has also promoted her sport as well as any coach in Alabama history. Friday night will be the ultimate example.

"It's going to be an exciting night for our ladies as they use this meet to prepare for the championship season, but it's also going to be a great night for our fans because in addition to getting to see a tremendous competition, there are also going to be a lot of awesome prizes given away throughout the evening," Patterson said.

Chief among the giveaways and prizes be handed out during the Crimson Tide's last regular season meet, will be a new Corolla from Tuscaloosa Toyota and a trip for four to the Southeastern Conference and NCAA Gymnastics Championships.

The winner of the car giveaway will be decided in a reverse drawing Friday night from 30 qualifiers, including six that will be drawn at the start of the meet.

There will also be 2000 "At Alabama, Champions Come in All Sizes" posters, featuring senior gymnast Ricki Lebegern and senior defensive lineman Terrence Cody, given away prior to the meet.

Many of the night's prize packs will be centered around the night's Dr. Seuss Birthday and Academic Achievement Night theme, including a Horton Hears a Who box set, a Leapster with Up pack, a Dr. Seuss Pack which includes the Best of Seuss, Seuss Classics, and Seuss Celebration, and a Cat in the Hat Tag Reading System.

The meet will feature the Tuscaloosa Toyota "Best Seat in the House" promotion as well where one lucky ticket holder will take home a 42-inch television and will sit floor-side during the meet.

Tickets for Friday's meet can be purchased through the Alabama Ticket Office (205.348.2262) and online at

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