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 the same story was selected twice in a row. The results of this year’s tally were announced Wednesday.
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 year ended with a small step to normalcy – joy on the football field. Under new coach Bill O’Brien, the Nittany Lions won eight of their last 10 games to finish 8-4, capped by an overtime victory at home over Wisconsin.
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 second-place story receiving nine points, and so on.
The Penn State saga received 1,420 points and 109 first-place votes. The No. 2 sports story, Lance Armstrong stripped of his seven Tour de France titles, had 10 first-place votes and 1,008 points.
Football’s popularity, college and pro, was unmistakable with seven of the top 10 stories. But only two of them involved the action on the field.