NEW YORK – The Penn State child sex abuse scandal was selected as the sports story of the year by U.S. editors and news directors in an annual vote conducted by The Associated Press.
The news broke in November 2011, with a grand jury report outlining charges against Jerry Sandusky, and the outrage that followed led to the firing of Hall of Fame coach Joe Paterno. But the aftershocks were felt long into 2012: Sandusky was convicted in June of assaulting 10 boys, and the NCAA handed down brutal sanctions in July.
In both years, the scandal was picked as the top sports story, the first time since the AP began conducting its annual vote in 1990 that a story was selected twice in a row.
There were 157 ballots submitted from U.S. news organizations. The voters were asked to rank the top 10 sports stories of the year, with the first-place story getting 10 points.
The Penn State saga received 1,420 points and 109 first-place votes. Here’s how the rest of the stories shook out:
2. Lance Armstrong (1,008 votes): In February, federal prosecutors closed an investigation into whether the star cyclist doped. In June, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency accused him of using performance-enhancing drugs, and in August, USADA ordered his record seven Tour titles wiped out.
3. NFL bounties (724): Saints coach Sean Payton was suspended for the entire season and New Orleans started 0-4 to quickly fall out of playoff contention. Much else about the bounty scandal remains in dispute. On Dec. 11, former Commissioner Paul Tagliabue overturned suspensions of four players.
4. Football concussions: The deaths of NFL greats Alex Karras and Junior Seau – who committed suicide – were grim reminders of the angst over head injuries and their possible consequences. Thousands of retired players have sued the league, alleging it failed to protect them.
5. London Olympics: Michael Phelps retired from swimming after setting an Olympic record with his 22nd medal at a Summer Games bursting with memorable performances.
6. College football playoffs: Instead of complaining about the BCS, soon we can moan about the selection committee. After years of carping, fans finally got a playoff system, which will debut after the 2014 season. The four-team bracket will feature semifinals and a title game to determine a national champion.
7. Replacement officials: In Week 3, on the national stage of “Monday Night Football,” a missed offensive pass interference penalty and a questionable touchdown handed the Seattle Seahawks a win over the Green Bay Packers. Two days later, the league resolved its labor dispute with the regular refs.
8. Super Giants: A team that had been 7-7 upset the top-seeded Packers on the road in the playoffs, needed overtime to beat the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC title game, then came from behind to defeat the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl, 21-17. Eli Manning won his second Super Bowl MVP award.
9. Summitt retires: Pat Summitt, the winningest coach in NCAA basketball history, retired from the Tennessee bench in April at age 59, less than 8 months after revealing she had early-onset dementia.
10. Manning’s resurgence: Peyton Manning was released from the Indianapolis Colts in March after missing last season because of neck surgery. John Elway and the Broncos gambled by signing him, and Denver has already clinched the AFC West.