The Tide keeps on rolling
Avenging a loss to LSU in a much-hyped regular season matchup, Alabama topped the Tigers to win its second BCS title in three years. Nick Saban’s bunch will go for a third championship against Notre Dame on Jan. 7.
Photo: Gerald Herbert, Associated Press
Child sex abuse scandal rocks Penn State
Jerry 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 July 12, saying beloved longtime head coach Joe 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. On Jan. 22, Paterno died from lung cancer. He was 85.
Photo: Carolyn Kaster
A Super Bowl sequel
The New York Giants, a team that had been 7-7 upset the top-seeded Green Bay Packers on the road in the playoffs, needed overtime to beat the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC title game, then came from behind to defeat the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl, 21-17, an outcome strangely similar to their matchup four years earlier. This Hail Mary pass on the final play gave the Giants a brief scare before falling out of the reach of the Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski. Eli Manning won his second Super Bowl MVP award.
Photo: Michael Conroy
Cut by the Houston Rockets on Christmas Eve, Jeremy Lin went from sleeping on a teammate’s couch to playing some of the best ball in NBA history. Linsanity parlayed his historic February run with the New York Knicks to a hefty contract with the Rockets in July.
Photo: Seth Wenig, Associated Press
Team one-and-done gets it done
Master recruiter John Calipari won his first championship as freshmen-laden Kentucky parlayed a roster full of NBA talent (including No. 1 draft pick Anthony Davis) into the school’s eighth NCAA basketball title and first since 1998.
Photo: Ronald Martinez, Getty Images
Perfection on the hardwood
Led by Brittney Griner, the Lady Bears became the seventh women's team to run through a season unbeaten and the first in NCAA history to win 40 games. It was the second national championship for Baylor, which also won a title in 2005.
Photo: Eric Gay
Hollywood becomes Hockeywood
The Los Angeles Kings' 45-year Stanley Cup quest came to a triumphant end as they beat the New Jersey Devils in Game 6 of the Cup Finals. The Kings became the first eighth-seeded playoff team to win the league title.
Photo: Mark J. Terrill, Associated Press
A memorable Masters
An emotional Bubba Watson edged Louis Oosthuizen on the second hole of a sudden death playoff to win his first career major.
Photo: Andrew Redington, Getty Images
Crown the King (finally)
The only things LeBron James didn't seem to win in 2012 were Powerball and the presidential election. NBA MVP. NBA Finals MVP. Olympic champion. And, at long last, he got his hands on the NBA championship trophy, when the Miami Heat beat the Oklahoma City Thunder in five games.
Photo: DON EMMERT, AFP/Getty Images
Bolt backs up his Beijing performance
Once again, Usain Bolt stole the Olympic show. He easily won the 100-meter dash in an Olympic-record time, then captured the 200-meter dash four days later. And then came the capper, a world-record time for Jamaica in the 4x100-meter relay, with Bolt running the final leg and ensuring that the United States could do no better than second on that night. Gold, gold, gold in London. Gold, gold, gold in Beijing. And he became the first man to win the 100-200 double at consecutive Olympics.
Photo: Smiley N. Pool, Houston Chronicle
Gabby's a golden girl
Gabby Douglas was one of the heroes of the London Games as she led the U.S. women's gymnastics team to the gold medal and claimed the all-around individual title.
Photo: Smiley N. Pool
Leaving on top
The best Olympian ever? Could be. The most-decorated Olympian ever? There’s no question Michael Phelps has that title. In all, 22 medals, 18 of them gold, the last four golds coming at the London Olympics. And in his final race, the third leg of the 400-meter medley relay, Phelps got to hear “The Star-Spangled Banner” play in his honor one last time. Phelps didn’t just go into retirement with more golds than any other Olympian — he doubled the total that anyone else had ever won.
Photo: Smiley N. Pool, Houston Chronicle
Don't call it a comeback
In June, Roger Clemens was acquitted of all charges of lying to Congress about using performance enhancing drugs. By August, the 50-year-old former major league star was back on mound, pitching well for the independent league Sugar Land Skeeters and teasing a return to the big leagues.
Photo: Brett Coomer, Associated Press
A legend falls
In February, federal prosecutors closed an investigation into whether the star cyclist doped. That turned out to be only a temporary reprieve for a once-revered figure. In June, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency accused him of using performance-enhancing drugs, and in August, when he 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, Livestrong.
Photo: Michael Paulsen
New place for Peyton, but he's same old Manning
Peyton Manning was released from the Indianapolis Colts in March after missing last season because of neck surgery, the future uncertain for the four-time MVP. John Elway and the Broncos gambled that he still had some championship play left in that right arm, and so far it's looking like a brilliant move as Denver won the AFC West.
Photo: Brett Coomer, Houston Chronicle
The future is now
Selected 1-2 in April's NFL draft, Andrew Luck, left, and Robert Griffin III are running neck-and-neck in the race for the Rookie of the Year award. Don't be surprised if the QBs are the top two candidates for next season's MVP award.
Photo: Alex Brandon, Associated Press
Replacing the replacements
Fans and pundits predicted a blown call would decide a critical game when the NFL started the season with replacement officials. Sure enough, in Week 3, on the national stage of "Monday Night Football," a missed offensive pass interference penalty and a questionable touchdown catch handed the Seattle Seahawks a win over the Green Bay Packers. Two days later, the league resolved its labor dispute with the regular refs.
Beckham bows out of MLS
Soccer icon David Beckham wrapped up his career in the U.S.-based league with a second straight championship as his Los Angeles Galaxy defeated the Houston Dynamo 3-1 in the MLS Cup final.
Photo: Harry How, Getty Images
NHL season is on ice
The NHL lockout, which began on Sept. 15, has already wiped out the first three months of the season. If the entire season is canceled, it will be the second time (2004-05) in less than 10 years that an NHL season was lost due to a work stoppage.
Photo: Paul Sancya, Associated Press
Return of the Triple Crown
Detroit Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera became baseball’s first Triple Crown winner in 45 years, after batting .330 with 44 home runs and 139 RBIs on the way to the AL Most Valuable Player award.
Photo: Charlie Riedel, Associated Press
A budding baseball dynasty by the Bay
The San Francisco Giants swept the Detroit Tigers to win their second World Series title in three years. With a talented pitching staff, the Giants figure to be back in the Fall Classic for years to come.
Photo: Charlie Riedel, Associated Press
Johnny Football becomes Johnny Heisman
After lighting up the SEC in Texas A&M's first season in the conference, quarterback Johnny Manziel became the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy.
Photo: Handout, Getty Images For The Heisman Tru
This much is clear: Saints coach Sean Payton was suspended for the entire season and New Orleans started 0-4 to quickly fall out of playoff contention. 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
Photo: Mark Humphrey, AP
Those who called it a career
Less than a year after being diagnosed with early onset dementia-Alzheimer's type, legendary Tennessee women’s basketball coach Pat Summitt retired after 38 years at the helm. Summitt guided the Lady Vols to eight national championship and 18 Final Fours. Other notable retirements: Andy Roddick (tennis), Chipper Jones (baseball), LaDainian Tomlinson (football), Nicklas Lidstrom (hockey), Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez (baseball), Hines Ward (football), Shawn Johnson (gymnastics), Michael Phelps (swimming), Jim Calhoun (college basketball), Kim Clijsters (tennis), Ricky Williams (football), “Sugar” Shane Mosley (boxing) and Paul Hamm (gymnastics).
Photo: Doug Benc
Those who passed on
The year’s obituaries came with a tragic soundtrack of gunfire. Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher shot his girlfriend to death. The 25-year-old then drove to the Arrowhead Stadium parking lot, thanked his coach and general manager who were there and put a bullet in his head. Junior Seau, the one-time linebacker of his hometown San Diego Chargers, shot himself in the chest at 43, leaving no note and so many in football shaken. Hector “Macho” Camacho, the loud, boastful 50-year-old fighter and a champion several times, was shot in the face while in a car in Puerto Rico. Other notable deaths include: college football coaches Darrell Royal (88) and Joe Paterno (85), college football commentator Beano Cook (81), baseball union leader Marvin Miller (95) , baseball Hall of Fame catcher Gary Carter (57), boxing trainersAngelo Dundee (90)and Emanuel Steward (68), boxing historian Bert Sugar (75), basketball Hall of Famers Jack Twyman (78) and Slater Martin (86), college basketball coach Rick Majerus (64), NFL defensive lineman and actor Alex Karras (77), NFL team owner Art Modell (87), NFL Films president Steve Sabol (69), bowler Don Carter (85) and freestyle skier Sarah Burke (29).
Photo: Bill Wippert, Associated Press