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Posted on Tue, Jan 1, 2013 : 5:59 a.m.

Most memorable sports stories of 2012

By Pete Cunningham

Now that 2012 is officially behind us, let's take a look at the year that was in sports in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area.

There was a BCS bowl win, Olympic, state and national champions crowned and oh so much more.

It was difficult enough to narrow down the top 10 stories of the year, and the recency effect gives us a tendency to forget how big stories last winter were while propping up the most recent happenings.

With that in mind, we're leaving the ranking of the stories to you. After refreshing your memory about the ten most memorable stories below (which are in no particular order) vote in the poll at the end and let us know what you think the biggest sports story of the year was.

Did we miss something? Let us know in the comments section what story or stories you think should have been included.

Michigan football team wins the Sugar Bowl

It was 363 days ago, so maybe the memory has faded for Michigan fans how significant of a win Michigan's 23-20 overtime victory of Virginia Tech really was.


Michigan kicker Brendan Gibbons celebrates his Sugar Bowl winning field goal January 3, 2012.

Melanie Maxwell |

Let's refresh.

It was Michigan's first trip to a BCS game since 2007, and the Wolverines' first win in one of the premier showcases of college football since 2000. Not bad for a first year coach.

Also, let's look at how Michigan won the Sugar Bowl because that's significant as well. If there were two things that irked Michigan fans more than anything during the Rich Rodriguez era it was the porous defense and abysmal special teams, both of which played huge parts in the Wolverines' victory in Louisiana.

Michigan put the final touch on its turnaround season under Hoke by only allowing the Hokies a single touchdown and stopping them in the overtime period. Then previously maligned kicker Brendan Gibbons, who was 1-of-5 on field goal attempts the year before, made a 39-yarder to win the game and cap off a 3-for-3 day.

The NHL Winter Classic saga

For a while it was the worst kept secret in the sports world, but then the NHL, Detroit Red Wings and University of Michigan finally made it official that the 2013 NHL Winter Classic was coming to Ann Arbor to be played in front of an expected world record crowd at Michigan Stadium.


The Winter Classic will eventually be in Ann Arbor, allegedly.

Melanie Maxwell |

The Michigan athletic department would make a quick and easy $3 million for leasing the stadium to the NHL, local businesses could expect upwards of $15 million in spinoff revenue. Officials even went out of their way to secure a special one-day liquor license for the normally-dry Big House so there could be booze at the special event.

All was right with the world...and then it all came crashing down.

NHL owners and players could never get on the same page in labor negotiations and as talks continued to stall, it became more and more realistic that the NHL would pull the plug on the event.

The league officially announced the cancellation of the game and the surrounding events. The silver lining: the NHL agreed to come to Ann Arbor for the next Winter Classic, whenver that may be.

Of course the same people promised harmony between players and owners after the last lockout in 2005, so take that what it's worth.

Local high school state champions

Five high school teams won state championships in 2012 and 62 state championship medals were taken home by local athletes from individual (bowling, swimming, track and field, tennis) relay (swimming and track) or doubles (tennis) events.


Former Huron sprinter Maya Long, left, with her mother, Katrina, and sister Monae.

Jeffrey Smith |

The five team champions were the Saline High School boys swimming team, winning their third straight Division 1 title, the Dexter boys swimming team (Division 2), the Pioneer field hockey team and the Huron and Greenhills boys tennis teams who won the second and fifth straight Division 1 and Division 4 championships, respectively.

Of all the individual state championships won, Huron sprinter Maya Long's win in the Division 1 400-meter dash was the most inspiring. Long ran with a heavy heart the year before, just days after her father had shot her mother and killed himself.

Long overcame the adversity and turned in a championship performance as a senior, with her father - who was always her biggest fan and coach - never far from her mind.

Michigan basketball team wins its first Big Ten title in 26 years

Zack Novak's Big Ten Championship ring.

The Michigan men's basketball team had taken baby steps back toward being nationally competitive in head coach John Beilein's first four years on the job, but one big think still eluded the Wolverines: A Big Ten Championship.

Though the Wolverines stumbled at times during the year, big wins over Michigan State and Ohio State propelled Michigan to its first Big Ten Title in 26 years.

Sure it's a tri-championship, split with the Buckeyes and Spartans, but a share of a title is more than the Fab Five or national championship winning 1989 team could ever claim.

Devin Gardner's emergence

When Devin Gardner arrived at Michigan he was one of the most highly-touted quarterback recruits in the nation. None of that really mattered because Denard Robinson's spot as the starting quarterback seemed as secure as any position on the field for the Wolverines.


Devin Gardner showed the world what he's contended for quite some time now: he's a quarterback.

Melanie Mawell |

But Gardner is too good of an athlete to keep on the bench, so he made the switch to wide receiver. Gardner always contended that he still thought of himself as a quarterback, but after shining as a receiver, and the coaching staff replacing an injured Robinson with Russell Bellomy against Nebraska, it seemed Gardner was only one who thought this.

After Bellomy stumbled against the Cornhuskers, Gadner got his shot and has lived up to every bit of the hype that accompanied him when he arrived on campus.

Gardner has arguably been Michigan's best receiver and best quarterback at different times this season and the future looks bright.

So...what about that redshirt?

Trey Burke doesn't turn pro, Michigan basketball No. 2 in the nation

Michigan point guard Trey Burke was highly touted when he arrived on Michigan's campus, but no one expected him to be this good this quick. How good? Second Team All-American, good.


The entire Michigan fan base clapped when Trey Burke, above, decided to stay in school.

Daniel Brenner |

Burke's early success almost seemed like it would be a burden on the Wolverines as he entertained the thought of declaring for the NBA Draft after his freshman season. It seemed a near certainty that Burke was headed to the pros, but he decided to stay in Ann Arbor to help Michigan compete for a national title.

If Burke's freshman season was great, than it's hard to find words to describe his play for Michigan so far in his sophomore campaign. Michigan is 13-0 and ranked No.2 in the country thanks in no small part to Burke's play.

It looks like Burke and the Wolverines will be in the hunt for a national title when March rolls around. As for next June's draft, Burke's play so far this year definitely has improved his draft stock if he decides to turn pro.

Huron vs. Pioneer football game end in brawl

The cross-town Ann Arbor rivalry between Huron and Pioneer took an ugly turn for the worse at the conclusion of the game on Friday, Oct. 12.


Both Huron and Pioneer football coaches eventually resigned following the brawl that erupted following their Oct. 12 game.

Daniel Brenner |

The brawl started as the two teams' head coaches, Cory Gildersleeve and Paul Test met at midfield after the game. Gildeersleeve took issue with the play-calling during the final minutes of play and was yelling at Test during the post game handshake as a result. Police reports state Test was pushed and Pioneer assistant coach Vincent Wortmann intervened by pushing Gildersleeve.

A brawl involving several players ensued with one victim being sent to the hospital.

Wortmann was fired for the incident, but never charged criminally, while Gildersleeve and Test along with several players were suspended. Both head coaches would eventually resign.

One player, Bashir Garain, 18, faces felony charges for the incident for swinging his crutch during the fight and two others could still face charges charges as juveniles.

Local Olympians shine in London

For more than two weeks, the sports world converged on London for the Olympic Games and there were plenty of local connections to make people in the area stick their chests out with pride.


Michigan gymnast Sam Mikulak represented the USA in London.

Associated Press

There was Huron High School and University of Michigan graduate Betsey Armstrong leading the United States to gold in water polo, and former Pioneer swimmer Kara Lynn Joyce competing in her third Olympics.

Club Wolverine was well represented in the pool, most famously by Michael Phelps, but also admirably by Canton native Allison Schmitt.

It wasn't just in the pool where athletes from the area excelled, and it wasn't just for the United States. Tiffany (Ofili) Porter, a Michigan and Ypsilanti High School grad, ran for Great Britain while and her husband Jeff, also a Michigan grad, ran for the United States, and former Wolverine Nick Willis ran for New Zealand.

Eastern Michigan was represented by alumnus Jamie Nieto in the high jump for the United States.

Michigan football team losses

As much as the wins feel great, coaches and players alike will tell you it's the losses that stick with them.


Michigan running back Fitz Toussaint had a disappointing season after a tumultuous offseason.

Melanie Maxwell |

And the Michigan football team had some big losses this year, on and off the field.

The biggest stage was where the biggest loss came against defending national champion Alabama at the Cowboy Classic in Arlington, Texas. The Wolverines lost 41-14 and it was every bit the beat down that the score indicates.

The Wolverines' schedule didn't do it any favors as Michigan had two other losses to undefeated teams in Notre Dame and Ohio State. Michigan's loss to Nebraska proved its most costly, however, with Denard Robinson leaving the game with an injury that hindered him the rest of the season.

Robinson was the only notable player the team lost during the year. Fitz Toussaint and Frank Clark both missed time due to legal issues in the offseason while Darryl Stonum was kicked off the team in the winter for violating his probation.

Stonum transferred to Baylor while Toussaint had a disappointing year. Clark excelled early on but faded a bit down the stretch.

Michigan atop Director's Cup standings

The Michigan volleyball team's Final Four run helped earn some Director's Cup points.

Associated Press

The football and basketball teams may get most of the press, but the Michigan athletic department has made it a priority to be competitive in men's and women's sports across the board.

After the release of the fall Director's Cup standings, it appears those efforts are paying off.

At the conclusion of seven fall sports, Michigan sits atop the standings, which awards points for 10 women's and 10 men's sports throughout the academic year.

Men's and women's soccer had strong showings as did both the men's and women's cross country teams and the women's field hockey team. But helping in Michigan's rise in the Director's Cup standings the most was the volleyball team's run to the Final Four, its first in program history.

Pete Cunningham covers sports for He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @petcunningham.


Pete Cunningham

Wed, Jan 2, 2013 : 9:10 p.m.

The poll created for the story, as mentioned in a few comments above, has some answers repeated. The glitch is impossible to fix without erasing everyone's votes. Sorry about the ugly inconvenience.


Wed, Jan 2, 2013 : 4:37 p.m.

More than one topic is repeated, which is going to skew your results a bit...


Tue, Jan 1, 2013 : 7:01 p.m.

You have the brawl on there twice?

Pete Cunningham

Tue, Jan 1, 2013 : 7:44 p.m.

There is a glitch in the poll that I'm trying to figure out that has caused answers to repeat. For some reason the only "repeat" that's showing up on the site is the one you mentioned. I'm working to try to resolve the issue. Thanks for pointing this out and sorry for the mistake.

Macabre Sunset

Tue, Jan 1, 2013 : 6:09 p.m.

Volleyball should be its own item, not part of a set of standings you'll never find printed in any newspaper. I can't believe all the ruckus over a game that was never played made the list. Or a "brawl" that wouldn't even qualify for happy hour at at a local bar. Or that the top story was a football bowl game that had nothing to do with the Big Ten or the fictional national championship. Slow news year? Or just non-local blogstaff not getting what's important in Ann Arbor.


Tue, Jan 1, 2013 : 4:34 p.m.

What A2 Dave said. I can't believe UM volleyball making the Final Four didn't make the list.

Pete Cunningham

Tue, Jan 1, 2013 : 5:14 p.m.

I don't know how you can say the volleyball team making the Final Four wasn't mentioned when the article actually says "helping in Michigan's rise in the Director's Cup standings the most was the volleyball team's run to the Final Four, its first in program history," with a link to a story and a picture of the team.


Tue, Jan 1, 2013 : 1:04 p.m.

At least you are consistent, Pete. No women's sports accomplishments (e.g. Volley Ball team making the final four for the first time in program history) are mentioned, even though your comments on the President's Cup acknowledges that there are 10 women's sports counted in the competition. The lack of coverage of the women's hoops team this season is particularly obvious and egregious, but is consistent with this sports sections nearly complete disregard for UofM women's sports. This is the only local sports news outlet, and your department's neglect of these athletes is is unprofessional and and worthy of serious criticism. Wise up and cover an extremely important aspect of local sports, or continue to be a dinosaur,

Pete Cunningham

Tue, Jan 1, 2013 : 5:14 p.m.

I would appreciate it if you would read the above article a little more closely. The statement that "no women's sports accomplishments are mentioned" is completely false. A) Many of the local state champions mentioned are females, including the one called the most inspiring: sprinter, Maya Long. B) Many of the local Olympians mentioned highlighted are female. Highlighted were Betsey Armstrong, Kara Lynne Joyce, Allison Schmitt and Tiffany (Ofili) Porter. C) I don't know how you can say the volleyball team making the Final Four wasn't mentioned when the article actually says "helping in Michigan's rise in the Director's Cup standings the most was the volleyball team's run to the Final Four, its first in program history," with a link to a story and a picture of the team.