Reaction to coach Sarah Patterson stepping down

The last coach hired by Bear Bryant at the University of Alabama is stepping down.{} After 36 years, legendary gymnastics coach Sarah Patterson is leaving the only job she has ever had since graduating college. This decision is based on coach Patterson's health. In a statement released by the university earlier today, Patterson wrote that she will need surgery to replace both knees and that it will take at least a year for her to fully recover. Those who know her call Sarah Patterson a shining example of impeccable coaching and character.

Erin Kightlinger knows coach Patterson well.{}The former University of Alabama gymnast was on the 2002 national championship team. "We watched the college team win national championships, win SEC championships. We grew up watching it, loving it, it was our passion."Kightlinger will never forget the impact Patterson had on her life.{} "She was fantastic, she was a great role model. She taught us a lot about character and how to build character. With us, with our families we use a lot of the same lessons we learned as gymnasts."Kightlinger coaches youth gymnastics in Tuscaloosa, using lessons learned from Sarah Patterson. News that her coach was stepping down hit hard.{} "It is very sad. We knew this day was going to come at some point. You just aren't really prepared for it."Patterson brought six national championships in gymnastics to the University of Alabama, while accruing more than 1,000 wins. Patterson never settles. She considers coaching a 24-seven job. The fact that she wouldn't be able to handle that kind of commitment while dealing with her own health issues helped her make the decision to step down. At SEC media days underway at the Wynfrey in Hoover, SEC commissioner Mike Slive called Patterson one of the greatest female coaches ever."She is that kind of pioneer, that kind of a great coach, who, along with others, have elevated her sport in our league to a place where we are preeminent," says Slive.{}Kightlinger hopes the next generation of gymnasts will understand the legacy Patterson leaves behind.{} "She has done a tremendous job building the sport of gymnastics, building it the right way."