With the year winding down and only one men's basketball game left it is time to pick out the top stories of the year again. As usual, I'll submit them in a poll and have you readers vote which is the top story, but here are the finalists:
Purdue Baseball has best season in school history - The baseball Boilers only played a handful of games in West Lafayette, but won 45 times to shatter the school record of 37 in a season. They also claimed the first Big Ten title in 103 years, first ever Big Ten Tournament berth, were ranked in the top 20 nationally for most of the year, made their second NCAA appearance ever and first in 25 years, hosted their first NCAA Regional, and won their first ever NCAA Tournament game. It was quite a run for the program and hopefully will continue as the brand new Alexander Field opened this fall.
Danny Hope fired, Darrell Hazell hired - The enduring story of the football season was the downfall of coach hope and the eventual hiring of Darrell Hazell. It was a season where Purdue nearly upset both remaining unbeaten teams on their home fields but got blown out at home. A season where three quarterbacks played in several games. Ultimately, it was a season that Robert Marve salvaged at least some pride while playing on a third torn ACL.
Robbie Hummel's encore wins Lowe's Senior CLASS Award - Purdue won an NCAA Tournament game for a 14th straight appearance, but the story was Robbie Hummel. The man shook off two knee injuries to come back and earn the Lowe's Senior CLASS Award as the most respected senior in all of college basketball. If there was ever justice in receiving an award, this was it.
Ariel Turner named Academic All-American of the Year in Volleyball - I'll get to the team accomplishments later, but Turner took home this national honor, a first for a Purdue athlete since some guy named Drew Brees 12 years ago in football.
David Boudia wins Olympic Bronze and Gold - The bronze medal performance in the synchro event was nice. Then David barely qualified for the semifinals in the 10-meter individual event. His second chance paid off as finished third in the semifinals and knocked his final dive out of the park to win gold. It was the first time an American won gold on the platform since 1988 and first for an American man in 20 years. He edged defending world champ Qiu Bo by just under two points. For good measure he is even getting his own diving series on ABC now. Synchro Diving with the Stars would be awesome.
Women's Volleyball Reaches Sweet 16 - Volleyball had an up and down season in losing to last place Indiana and Iowa, but they still rallied to upset No. 9 seed Florida State in the second round of the NCAA Tournament down in Tallahassee and reach the Sweet 16 for a third straight season. The reward was a trip home, where the Boilers led Minnesota 1-0 before dropping three close sets to close the year. Ariel Turner was also First Team all-Big Ten selection.
Women's Tennis wins Big Ten Tournament - It was a surprise at the time, but the women's tennis team stunned the conference by sweeping through Michigan State, Nebraska, Northwestern, and Michigan to win the Big Ten Tournament for the first time in school history. The last three wins were three straight over top 20 ranked teams before losing to Pepperdine in the NCAAs. Before beating Northwestern the Wildcats had won the Big Ten Tournament 13 years in a row and it was highest ranked team win in program history.
Women's Basketball wins Big Ten Tournament - For the eighth time in school history the women's basketball team secured an automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament by winning the Big Ten Tournament. The Boilers have twice as many Tournament titles as the next closest competitor, and the 74-70 double overtime victory over Nebraska in Indianapolis was a back and fourth game was won on the back with KK Houser scoring 19 points.
Injuries - Another year, another pile of ACLs to bury. Kara Patterson saw her dream of an Olympic medal go away with a torn ACL. Robert Marve gutted himself through most of a football season with one. Ralph Bolden came back with one only to injure his hamstring against Illinois. Jay Simpson is only the latest, seeing his first season end with a foot injury.
Drew Brees sets NFL records - Since the final game of the regular season occurred on January 1 we can claim it happened this year. The 5,476 yards Drew threw for in 2011 established a new single-season yardage record for our favorite member of the Cradle of Quarterbacks. In week 13 this year his streak of consecutive games with at least one touchdown pass ended at 54 in a dreadful game at Atlanta, though it should be noted that he had a TD pass called back due to a penalty in that game. His new streak is already at three games, and he broke the existing record of 47 that stood for 52 years by Johnny Unitas. Tom Brady is unfortunately getting close as he is at 46 weeks and counting, In October he became the fastest player to reach 40,000 passing yards in NFL history. He is currently 8th all time in passing yards and could finish next season as high as fifth behind only Brett Favre, Dan Marino, Peyton Manning, and John Elway.