Top 20 national stories
1 Penn State
The news of Jerry Sandusky’s sexual abuse of boys was revealed in November 2011, but the aftershocks were felt well into 2012. The former Penn State defensive coordinator was convicted of assaulting 10 boys and sentenced to 30 to 60 years in prison. And the NCAA punished Penn State with a four-year bowl ban, scholarship reductions and a stunning $60 million fine.
2 LeBron’s most excellent
Ripped and ridiculed by critics, the most scrutinized athlete in sports responded resoundingly, leading the Heat to an NBA title, winning the MVP award for both the regular season and the Finals and capturing Olympic gold in London. To top it off, he was named Sportsman of the Year by Sports Illustrated.
The cycling star was stripped of his seven Tour De France victories after the U.S. Doping Agency determined that he not only used performance-enhancing drugs, but also that his cycling team “ran the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program the sport has ever seen.”
4 College football playoff approved
After 14 years of crowning a champion through the hardly reliable Bowl Championship Series, the college presidents finally approved a four-team tournament beginning in 2014.
The U.S. won the medal count, as expected, with 104 to China’s 88. Michael Phelps won four golds and two silvers to push his all-time medal count to 22, most in history. Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt became the first athlete to win the 100 and 200 meters in consecutive Olympics.
6 New York Giants make unlikely
Super Bowl run
The Giants beat the Patriots 21-17 to earn the distinction of the Super Bowl champion with the worst regular-season record (9-7).
7 San Francisco
unlikely run to
The Giants overcame a 3-1 deficit to St. Louis in the National League Championship Series, swept Detroit 4-0 in the World Series and did it all without one of their best hitters, Melky Cabrera, who was suspended in August for violating MLB’s drug policy.
biggest scandal since the Patriots’ SpyGate fiasco rocked the New Orleans Saints’ foundation and resulted in a season-long suspension for coach Sean Payton and an eight-game suspension for general manager Mickey Loomis. But former commissioner Paul Tagliabue overturned Roger Goodell’s suspension of four players.
9 NFL players die on consecutive weekends
The NFL mourned two tragedies in December: Kansas City Chiefs player Jovan Belcher killed his girlfriend, Kasandra Perkins, and then shot himself. The following weekend, Dallas Cowboys player Josh Brent’s DUI incident resulted in the death of teammate Jerry Brown.
The former MVP, who missed the 2011 season with a neck injury, was released by the Colts, who decided to start rookie Andrew Luck instead of paying Manning $28 million. Manning chose the Denver Broncos over several other suitors and quickly regained his old form, throwing 37 touchdowns this season.
11 NHL work stoppage
The league, which lost its 2004-05 season to a labor dispute, lost the first three-plus months of this season — and potentially more — because of another disagreement about how to share revenue with the players.
12 Alabama wins national title
Nick “I’m not going to be the Alabama coach” Saban guided the Crimson Tide to its 14th national title with a 21-0 shutout of LSU in January in New Orleans.
wins NCAA men’s title
The Wildcats defeated Kansas for their eighth championship. It was the first NCAA Tournament in which two No. 2 seeds (Duke and Missouri) were beaten by two No. 15 seeds (Lehigh, Norfolk State).
14 Replacement referees
A labor dispute forced the NFL to use high-school and small-college referees the first three weeks of the season, eliciting a torrent of criticism over bad calls and non-calls. Not coincidentally, an agreement with the regular refs was reached two days after a highly questionable touchdown catch gave Seattle a win against Green Bay.
The former Marlin, traded to the Tigers in 2007 for a bowl of cream of wheat, became the first player to win it since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967.
The first ever won by a freshman. The Texas A&M quarterback threw for 24 touchdowns and ran for 19.
17 Pat Summitt retires
The basketball coach with eight national titles and the most wins in NCAA history (1,098, compared with just 208 losses) retired from the Tennessee bench, eight months after disclosing she had early onset dementia.
18 Year of the rookie quarterback
Luck, Robert Griffin III, Russell Wilson, Ryan Tannehill and Brandon Weeden all started from opening day, and three of them had their teams in playoff position entering the final weekend of the season.
Juan Manuel Marquez’s sixth-round blow decked Manny Pacquiao, who hadn’t been knocked out since the last century (1999).
20 (Tie) Brad Keselowski won his first Sprint Cup title.
Jimmie Johnson blew his chance for a sixth because of gear failure in the Homestead race.
Serena Williams rebounded from injuries to win Wimbledon, an Olympic gold and the U.S. Open.
Roger Federer won a record-tying seventh Wimbledon.
Tiger Woods, who went winless in 2011, won three tournaments (but no majors) and $6 million in prize money.
Top 20 local stories
1 Heat championship and LeBron’s
The two go hand-in-hand and, appropriately, share the top spot on our list. Both James and the Heat silenced their critics with a marvelous May and jubilant June, ending in a 4-1 Finals vanquishing of Oklahoma City. James, who averaged 28.6 points and 10.2 rebounds in the championship series, won the Finals MVP a month after winning the regular-season MVP.
2 Marlins open
Could the first year of a new ballpark have gone any worse? The Marlins bombed, finishing 69-93, and drawing the fewest fans for any new stadium in the 21st century. At least the air conditioning worked.
3 LeBron leads Heat back from 3-2
deficit vs. Boston
Facing elimination in the Eastern Conference finals, LeBron served up back-to-back performances for the ages: a 45-point, 15-rebound epic in Game 6 in Boston, and a 21-point, 12-rebound masterpiece in Game 7 in Miami.
4 Dolphins draft a quarterback in the first round
Miami hadn’t done that since plucking Dan Marino 27th in 1983. Ryan Tannehill, selected eighth, surprisingly won the job in training camp — aided by David Garrard’s knee injury — and flashed enough potential to leave fans and pundits encouraged.
5 Dolphins hire
Miami’s coaching merry-go-round of the past decade continued, with the former Green Bay offensive coordinator beating out Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy for the job after Jeff Fisher spurned the Dolphins for the St. Louis Rams.
6 Dolphins go
a fourth season in a row without a winning record
That’s the first time that happened since the franchise’s first four seasons. The Dolphins raised hopes with a 4-3 start, then lost 5 of 6, including an inexplicable 37-3 home drubbing by the Tennessee Titans.
7 Ozzie Guillen’s nightmare
The Marlins’ loquacious manager enraged South Florida — and earned a five-game team suspension — for saying he admired Cuban dictator Fidel Castro; steered a 93-loss team that badly underachieved; and was fired just one season into a four-year contract. At least he walked away with a $7.5 million parting gift.
The Marlins went retro, but not the way anyone wanted, returning to the days of a payroll in the $40 million range, lowest in baseball. Their $60 million-plus salary dump — achieved with trades of Hanley Ramirez, Anibal Sanchez, Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, Jose Reyes and Heath Bell — infuriated fans.
9 UM wins ACC Coastal Division but self-imposes a bowl ban
Despite a porous defense, UM closed 7-5 and won its division for the first time, but eschewed an ACC title game appearance against Florida State and a bowl berth in hopes that a second consecutive postseason ban would mitigate future NCAA punishment.
10 Panthers return to playoffs
Florida snapped out of a decade-long malaise by making the playoffs for the first time since 2000 and winning a playoff game for the first time since 1997. The scrappy Panthers led 3-2 in their first-round series against New Jersey before being ousted in seven games.
11 Heat signs
Less than a month after winning a championship, the rich got even richer by signing the NBA’s all-time leader in three-point baskets.
12 Dolphins lose out on Manning, strike out in free agency
The Dolphins never even made Peyton’s final three, then achieved little in free agency beyond Marcus Thigpen and injured Richard Marshall. At least the draft yielded better results.
13 Dwyane Wade’s Indiana comeback
Bothered by knee soreness, Wade delivered a clunker in a Game 3 Eastern Conference semifinals blowout loss in Indiana: 2-for-13 shooting, five points. But Wade rebounded splendidly with 30 points, nine rebounds and six assists in Game 4 to help Miami even the series and overcome the Heat’s first serious adversity of the 2012 playoffs.
14 FIU dumps Cristobal
After taking the Golden Panthers to bowl games in 2010 and ’11 and spurning overtures from Pittsburgh and Rutgers last winter, Mario Cristobal was rewarded with a pink slip in the wake of a 3-9 season.
15 FIU dumps
Athletic director Pete Garcia also lost patience with NBA Hall of Famer Isiah Thomas after three abysmal seasons (26-65). Rick Pitino’s son, Richard, replaced him.
16 Reality TV hits South Florida
The Dolphins and Marlins both agreed to be the focus of cable television reality series. HBO’s Hard Knocks proved far more compelling viewing than MLB’s The Franchise on Showtime.
17 UM lands top-10 recruiting class, led by electrifying running back Duke Johnson
Al Golden’s 33-player class made an immediate impact, with Johnson setting a UM freshman rushing record. Johnson and safety Deon Bush were named second-team freshman All-Americans.
18 Chad Johnson’s two-month Dolphins odyssey
After signing in June, the Miami Beach alum predicted a “monster year.” Instead, he was underwhelming in training camp, was arrested for allegedly head-butting his wife of six weeks, then was dumped by both his bride and the Dolphins.
19 UM baseball team’s shocking exit
A Hurricanes baseball season had never before ended in such embarrassing fashion: a 10-2 loss to Stony Brook and a 12-2 drubbing by Missouri State, at home, no less. UM failed to win an NCAA tournament game for the first time since 1993.
20 UM basketball team makes NIT
In his first season as Frank Haith’s successor, Jim Larranaga guided the Hurricanes to a 20-13 record and a berth in the NIT, where Miami was annihilated by visiting Minnesota 78-60 in a second-round game.