Penn State sex scandal repeats as top sports story

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Former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky was sentenced to at least 30 years in prison in the child sexual abuse scandal that brought shame to Penn State and the downfall of Joe Paterno.  FILE/ASSOCIATED PRESS
FILE/ASSOCIATED PRESS
Former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky was sentenced to at least 30 years in prison in the child sexual abuse scandal that brought shame to Penn State and the downfall of Joe Paterno.

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.

TOP 10 STORIES FOR 2012

1. Penn State. Ex-FBI Director Louis Freeh released the results of his investigation July 12, saying Joe Paterno and other top school officials covered up allegations against Jerry Sandusky.

2. Lance Armstrong. USADA ordered his record seven Tour de France titles wiped out for doping.

3. NFL bounties. The Saints coach was suspended for 2012 but players deny the league’s assertions of a pay-for-injury program.

4. Football concussions. The deaths of a pair of NFL greats were reminders of the angst over head injuries and their possible consequences.

5. London Olympics. Michael Phelps retired and Britain racked up 65 medals.

6. College football playoffs. After years of carping, fans finally got a playoff system.

7. Replacement officials. A missed call during Week 3 helped the league resolve its labor dispute with the regular refs.

8. Super Giants. A team that had been 7-7 beat the Packers, 49ers and Patriots en route to their Super Bowl victory.

9. Summitt Retires. Pat Summitt, the winningest coach in NCAA basketball history, retired from Tennessee, less than eight months after revealing she had early-onset dementia.

10. Manning’s resurgence. After Indianapolis cut Peyton Manning, John Elway and Denver gambled on him. The Broncos have already won the AFC West.


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