The sports staff at the Gazette selected the top 10 local stories of the calendar year 2012. Here are the submissions.
10. The nation’s winningest prep softball coach was fired by Cedar Rapids Jefferson last summer.
However, Larry Niemeyer, who has won 2,089 games in 52 seasons, still will be on the softball diamond in 2013 as he quickly was hired by Waterloo West.
Despite that change, the softball field at Jefferson will be named for him.
9. He’s been coming into your living rooms for three decades, but December marked the end of an era as KCRG Sports Director John Campbell retired.
Campbell, who has covered everything from college to prep sports, made “Big Ol’ Fish” a weekly must-see for those who like to wet a line and even rode RAGBRAI 14 times, still will be around on a part-time basis.
Long-time Assistant Sports Director Scott Saville moved up to Sports Director so this switch should be smooth.
8. Things started looking up for the Iowa men’s basketball team in 2012.
First, the Hawkeyes were invited to the NIT (first postseason trip since 2006) where they won a first-round game before falling at Oregon.
Then, Iowa opened 2012-13 with high expectations for a starting lineup that included three highly touted freshmen.
7. Just when things appeared to be settling down on the conference expansion front, Notre Dame joined the Atlantic Coast Conference in all sports but football.
That move prompted the Big Ten to expand to add Rutgers and Maryland, effective in 2014.
And, Commissioner Jim Delany hinted that the league is not finished when it comes to expansion.
The Big Ten also must realign its divisions once the two new teams start playing, so stay tuned for even more changes.
6. It isn’t often that a local prep athlete becomes a national story.
But that happened when former Jefferson basketball standout Jarrod Uthoff attempted to transfer from Wisconsin.
Initially, Badgers coach Bo Ryan placed extreme restrictions on Uthoff’s transfer options.
Under national media pressure, Ryan relented and Uthoff ended up at Iowa where he is sitting out the 2012-13 season.
A lot of people already are looking forward to future Iowa-Wisconsin games with Uthoff on the court for the Hawkeyes.
5. Iowa City Regina’s third consecutive state football championship was no sure thing.
The Regals had a new starting quarterback and a handful of returning starters.
But by the end of the season, Regina stood atop Class 1A and was riding a 42-game winning streak.
If Marv Cook and his team advance to the state finals next season, they will set a state record for consecutive football wins.
4. For the last two decades, the Kernels were affiliated with the California Angels.
That relationship saw many future Major Leaguers come through Cedar Rapids, including 2012 phenom Mike Trout.
In a popular move with many in the area, the Kernels became the Class A Midwest League team of the Minnesota Twins.
The Twins are expected to expand promotions and pop some new life into the Kernels.
3. If you’re looking for the local sports event of 2012, the Substate boys basketball game between Linn-Mar and Kennedy would have to rank near the top.
Senior Marcus Paige scored seven points in the final 19 seconds of regulation to force overtime and then helped the Lions win in double-overtime.
Paige’s 49-point effort was one of many reasons he was chosen The Gazette‘s 2011-12 Male Athlete of the Year.
Switching from preps to college, Paige, the Metro’s all-time leading scorer, started every game for North Carolina at point guard while averaging 7.1 points and 4.0 assists per game.
2. Iowa State’s men’s basketball team garnered some attention during March Madness.
First, the Cyclones earned an NCAA Tournament berth where they upset defending national champion Connecticut in the second round.
Unfortunately for the Cyclones, they ran into Kentucky in the second round in Louisville and fell to the eventual national champs.
Sophomore Royce White led the team in just about every category and was selected in the first round of the NBA draft by the Houston Rockets.
As the year ended, White, who suffers from an anxiety disorder and fear of flying, was still away from the team.
1. The fate and fortune of the Iowa football program usually ranks near the top when it comes to the local sports stories of any year.
But 2012 saw plenty of changes, starting with a staff shakeup that brought in new offensive and defensive coordinators and ending with arguably the most disappointing season of the Kirk Ferentz era.
While no one expected the Hawkeyes to contend for a Big Ten championship or BCS bowl, few expected a 4-8 finish – including six consecutive losses to end the season – and going bowl-less for the first time since 2007.
Hence, there was some heat on Ferentz that likely will increase with another disappointing season.
One of the few bright spots was Mark Weisman, who went from unheralded fullback to the team’s leading rusher.