AP Story of the Year: Penn State scandal repeats as top news

By Rachel Cohen
ASSOCIATED PRESS  • 
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The scandal surrounding the Penn State football program was also named the top sports story in 2011.

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 former assistant football coach 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 on the university 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 the same story was selected twice in a row.

Even before the Sandusky trial, the State College community had absorbed another huge blow as Paterno died Jan. 22 at age 85 of lung cancer.

The Penn State saga received 1,420 points and 109 first-place votes. The No. 2 story, Lance Armstrong stripped of his seven Tour de France titles, had 10 first-place votes and 1,008 points.

Here are 2012’s top five stories:

1. Penn State: Sandusky, the former defensive coordinator whose crimes led to such devastation for his victims and for his former employer, was found guilty on 45 of 48 counts. In October, the 68-year-old was sentenced to 30 to 60 years in prison. His conviction provided some closure, but a messy aftermath remained. Former FBI Director Louis Freeh released the results of his investigation on July 12, saying Paterno and other top school officials covered up allegations against Sandusky. The NCAA used that report as a basis for its sanctions, announced later that month, which included a $60 million fine, a four-year bowl ban and scholarship reductions.

2. Lance Armstrong: In June, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency accused Armstrong of using performance-enhancing drugs, and in August, when Armstrong dropped his fight against the charges, USADA ordered his record seven Tour titles wiped out. A report released in October laid out vivid details of the evidence. The year ends with Armstrong dropped by many of the companies he endorsed and no longer formally involved with the cancer charity he founded.

3. NFL bounties: This much is clear: New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton was suspended for the entire season and much else about the bounty scandal remains in dispute. Players deny the NFL’s assertions of a pay-for-injury program. On Dec. 11, former commissioner Paul Tagliabue overturned his successor’s suspensions of four players but endorsed the findings of the investigation under Roger Goodell.

4. Football concussions: The deaths of NFL greats Alex Karras — who suffered from dementia — and Junior Seau — who committed suicide — were grim reminders of the angst over head injuries in the sport and their possible consequences. Thousands of retired players have sued the league, alleging the NFL failed to protect them from the dangers of concussions.

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. Usain Bolt became the first man to successfully defend both the 100- and 200-meter titles.

 

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