Alabama gymnastics coach Sarah Patterson steps down

Anniston StarJuly 15, 2014 

Alabama Patterson Gymnastics

FILE - In this Jan. 24, 2014, file photo, Alabama gymnastics coach Sarah Patterson cheers on her team at a meet against Arkansas in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Patterson is stepping down after leading the Crimson Tide to six national titles in 36 seasons. (AP Photo/AL.com, Vasha Hunt, File) MAGS OUT

VASHA HUNT — AP

HOOVER, Ala. -- Longtime Alabama gymnastics coach Sarah Patterson is stepping down after 36 seasons, Patterson announced in a university statement on Tuesday.

During her tenure, Patterson led the Crimson Tide to 1,066 wins, six NCAA championships and eight SEC team championships.

Patterson has battled degenerative issues in both knees for several years.

"After much thought and prayer and after much consultation with Athletics Director Bill Battle and our President, Dr. Judy Bonner, I have decided to step down from the only job I have ever known since graduating from college," Patterson said in a university news release. "This is something I have tried to postpone but, through ongoing consultation with my physicians, it has become evident that surgery to replace both knees is necessary. My physician shared with me that it will be a year or more before I am back to a normal lifestyle."

Assistant coach Dana Duckworth has been named as Patterson's successor, pending approval of The University of Alabama Board of Trustees.

Duckworth was a two-time individual NCAA Champion at Alabama during the early 1990s. She will be Alabama's sixth coach. She is scheduled to be introduced during a press conference Tuesday at 5 p.m.

Patterson will remain at Alabama on Battle's staff as a special assistant to the athletic director. She is expected to begin her role as a member of the NCAA Gymnastics Committee in September.

"Although this is certainly not how any of us wanted Sarah's incredible coaching career to come to an end, we are excited that Sarah has agreed to continue to serve the University and this department," Battle said in a university statement. "At this point though, we are focused on her return to health. We will make every effort to continue the tremendous momentum that Sarah and David created and maintained for our gymnastics program."

David Patterson, Sarah's husband, will also step down from his role as a volunteer coach. David has held the position since he retired in 2008 due to chronic back issues. He spent 30 years as Alabama's associate head coach.

"After having been through brief periods in the past where both of us were out of the gym at different points for health reasons, Sarah and I have always said that neither of us ever wanted to coach without the other," David Patterson said. "The timing is not what any of us wants, but the necessity of surgery at this point, and preserving Sarah's health, has set the timetable."

In their final season, the Pattersons led the Tide to the 2014 SEC championship and NCAA Seattle Regional Championship. Alabama finished fourth at the NCAA Championships in Birmingham. During her tenure, Alabama went to a record 20 NCAA Super Six Team Finals appearances and an NCAA-best 27 top-4 national finishes. Alabama won 29 regional titles, more than any program in NCAA history. Alabama honored Patterson in October 2013 with the Sarah Patterson Champions Plaza, which stands in front of Coleman Coliseum.

"I would like to thank Coach Battle and President Bonner for offering me the opportunity to take a complete year of medical leave and then return to coaching but, in this climate of early recruiting commitments, having a staff that changes at least twice in the next two years is not in the best interests of the continued success of Alabama gymnastics," Patterson said. "I know that Dana, along with Bryan Raschilla, will do an amazing job carrying on the championship tradition they have been a part of for so many years."

Contact Anniston Star Sports Writer Marq Burnett mburnett@annistonstar.com. On Twitter,@Marq_Burnett.

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