December 28th, 2016

Billy Reed's top 10 stories of 2016

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Billy Reed

Executive Editor


Billy Reed's top 10 stories of 2016
Reed calls Trinity head football coach Bob Beatty high school football coach to have ever coached in Kentucky / photo by Paul Najjar

In retrospect, the year 2016 looks like the cardiogram of a patient with serious heart problems. The highs were very high, the lows very low. Almost daily, it seems, our emotions were jerked this way or that. Up and down, up and down.

In keeping with long-standing sports columnist tradition. I have an end-of-the-year list for you. It’s how I rank the most significant news stories of the sports year. I will begin at the bottom of the list and move forward.

10. Coach Bob Beatty wins his 12th state football championship in 17 years at Louisville Trinity High. Yes, the man has some advantages that public schools don’t have. But nobody has ever exploited his resources more adroitly. With apologies to the great coaches who have worked at Highlands, St. Xavier, and other prep football hotbeds, he is the best we’ve seen in Kentucky.

9. Former University of Louisville player Adam Duvall takes over left field for the Cincinnati Reds and responds with 31 doubles, 33 homers, and 103 runs batted in. He was one of the few bright spots in a dismal season.

8. In a story quickly dubbed as “Wakeygate,” U of L athletics director Tom Jurich admitted that assistant football coach Lonnie Galloway had accepted information from a disgruntled former Wake assistant, who was still the team’s radio analyst, prior to the Cards’ game against the Demon Deacons. Although Jurich said U of L didn’t use any of the information during the game, he and his football program were pilloried in the national media.

7. Louisville native Jeff Brohm guides Western Kentucky to another outstanding season and bowl berth, then leaves after the season to take the head coaching job at Purdue. He has proved to be just as adept at teaching the passing game as he was playing quarterback for Trinity High, the University of Louisville, and various NFL teams.

6. U of L swimmer Kelsi Worrell wins gold at the Rio Olympic Games. Although she was disappointing in her individual event, the 100-meter butterfly, she got her gold on the medley relay team.

5. UK upsets U of L in football. The Wildcats entered the game as underdogs by up to 27 points, but danced out of Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium with a 41-38 victory. For UK coach Mark Stoops, it meant a 7-5 record and a sense of vindication. For U of L’s Bobby Petrino, it meant a lost chance to play in the Orange Bowl and questions about what happened to the team that…

4. U of L whips Florida State 63-20 with ESPN’s GameDay crew in the house for the first time ever. It was a perfect game against a team ranked No. 3 nationally at the time and it made Lamar Jackson the decided front-runner for the Heisman. The college football work was shocked, as expressed in Sports Illustrated’s cover billing: “What Just Happened?”

3. U of L President James Ramsey concedes that NCAA rules were violated in the Katina Powell scandal and bans his men’s basketball team from post-season play. The announcement came deep into the season, soon after the Cardinals had whipped North Carolina at home. It was the first time a university had self-imposed such a penalty so late into a season.

2. Jackson wins Heisman. Despite jaw-dropping upsets to Houston and UK in his team’s last two games, Jackson still won fairly comfortably over DeShaun Watson of Clemson. His acceptance speech was touching and heartfelt. He now has the opportunity to join Ohio State’s Archie Griffin as the only players to win the Heisman in back-to-back seasons.

1. Muhammad Ali’s death and funeral. With the world watching, Louisville put on its best face and gave The Champ a send-off that was just perfect – dignified, inclusive, peaceful, and touching. The funeral was attended by heads of state, show-biz celebrities, and journalists from around the world. It inspired magazine special issues and network TV documentaries.

The year will come to a merciful end on Dec. 31. I expect the UK football team to beat Georgia Tech in the TaxSlayer Bowl, the U of L football team to lose to LSU in the Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl, the U of L basketball team to beat Indiana in Lucas Oil Stadium, and Alabama and Ohio State to win the playoff semifinals.

In this uncertain world, let’s all pray for peace and goodness in 2017.

 

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