Sports stories from 2012 were varied, colorful and, in some cases, memorable.
1. In April, Kentucky basketball fans celebrated an eighth NCAA championship. Oddly, the team never achieved a nickname that stuck.
2. Maybe because fans knew two months on all five starters would be gone.
3. That reality moved a university professor of sports administration to say: “John Calipari is doing what the system allows him to do. I guess in that sense, congratulations. (But) Anyone who thinks that this has anything to do with the collegiate or educational model is flat-out wrong.”
4. In September, Western Kentucky’s football team stunned Kentucky in overtime in Lexington, 32-31.
5. In December, the Army-Navy game was another patriotic thriller, 17-13 Middies. But Army quarterback Trent Steelman (Bowling Green, Ky.) gave the game its poignancy.
6. In March, Rick Pitino’s Louisville team surprised talking heads everywhere by advancing to a Final Four.
7. In December, Kentucky hired a football coach again. First time head coach Mark Stoops is a defense-first fellow who hired an offensive coordinator immediately. Neal Brown.
8. In February, Western Kentucky took interim off Ray Harper’s job title as basketball coach and the Hilltoppers went on a roll, won the Sun Belt Tournament then a win in the NCAA Tournament.
9. Harper’s reaction to getting the job was native-son-perfect for one who grew up in Muhlenberg County, scoring 3,033 points for his high school team at Bremen.
“This is a destination job for me and there is no place in the country I would rather be. It is an honor to walk into the doors of Diddle Arena each and every day.”
10. Coming off a 29-4 season, the Bellarmine Knights were 8-0 by Christmas. Under the mediaobsessed Calipari-Pitino radar, coach Scotty Davenport could also boast a team 3.0-plus grade point average.
11. The much talked about, bragged about and celebrated trio of black college coaches at Kentucky, Louisville and Western Kentucky fizzled. Joker Phillips was fired and Willie Taggart jobjumped Western for South Florida. Charlie Strong stayed at UofL, but not before his boss had to sweeten his contract.
12. Trinity High School’s 13-1 season and 20th football championship was no surprise, but there is a question: With a 41-2 record and state titles in last three seasons, why isn’t Bob Beatty’s name mentioned as college coach candidate?
13. Western Kentucky University recognized its equivalent of James Naismith and John Wooden by naming the E.A. Diddle Arena’s playing surface John Oldham Court.
14. Best college hoops story of 2012? Could be Alex Barlow, walkon at Butler University.
15. Story of the Year, Legacy Dept? Since Kentucky’s Mitch Barnhart and John Calipari declared UK the “gold standard” and created a string of young millionaires, we hear much these days about DeMarcus Cousins (suspended), John Wall (not playing), and Daniel Orton, Terrence Jones and DeAndre Liggins being demoted to the D-League.
16. Western’s go-for-it final play gamble in the Little Ceasar’s Bowl was reasonable. That star Antonio Andrews was not part of it was not.
17. Prep prospect Andrew Wiggins might not fit at Kentucky because, “He doesn’t like the spotlight,” the kid’s mother said.
18. John Calipari has recruited another dandy crop of potential one-and-done’s. Thing is, his current players may not be so NBA attractive.
19. High school hoops star Jabari Parker committed to Duke. Kid’s father told the Detroit News the reason was coach Mike Krzyzewski. But it was Mom (Lola) who explained best. “I’m not a fan of basketball. I’m a fan of people. I think character is everything and I don’t hear anything negative about Coach K in my research.”
20. Traditional SEC and Big Ten football doormats Vanderbilt and Northwestern received bowl bids. The Commodores 8-4 to the Music City Bowl; the Wildcats 9-3 to the Gator Bowl.
21. Vanderbilt’s basketball team made itself the answer to a trivia question: When Kentucky marched to a 38-2 season and national championship in 2012, who won the Southeastern Conference Tournament?
22. No talk (above a whisper), about an NBA franchise for Louisville. Whew!
23. Personal Milestones. In May, I celebrated having met a deadline 6,724 times in 40 years of writing about sports in Kentucky. How quickly time passes. I am grateful for a (moderately) thick skin and the privilege to share this space with you. Thank you.
Here are my picks for sports person(s) of the year:
1. Darius Miller, native son who was instrumental in UK’s eighth national title. Miller, college graduate, signed two-year contract with New Orleans Hornets for just under $1 million, first year guaranteed.
2. Anthony Davis. Consummate team player. Despite only one year at Kentucky, Davis earned a place in the pantheon of UK basketball legends.
3. Dale Mueller. Coached Fort Thomas Highlands to its sixth Class 4-A state title in a row.
4. Shoni Schimmels, Louisville basketball. Beyond being team’s leader in scoring and assists, Schimmels stylish play and personal story make her special.
5. A’dia Mathies. Kentucky senior guard, SEC player of the Year in 2012. All American.
6. Charlie Strong. Louisville’s coach has elevated Cardinal Football to the threshold of a perch in the Top 10 every year.
7. Teddy Bridgewater, UofL quarterback. A natural.
8. James Quick. Trinity High receiver projects to be the best Kentuckian at the college level since Mr. Football Shaun Alexander headed to Alabama in 1994.
9. Willie Taggart. Coached Western to a winning season. Would rank higher, but he became just another job jumper.
10. Kenneth Faried. Former Morehead Eagle is now flourishing and had 21points, 15 rebounds for Denver in a win over the Lakers last week.
Happy new year.
And so it goes.