The ouster of one of America's most revered coaches, Penn State's Joe Paterno, after shocking child sex abuse charges against his former assistant was overwhelmingly voted the sports story of the year by members of The Associated Press.
On the morning of Nov. 5, Paterno's Nittany Lions were undefeated in the Big Ten and ranked No. 16 in the country, and the 84-year-old Hall of Famer was renowned as the winningest coach in Division I football, a leader who preached and practiced “Success with Honor.” Then came the staggering revelations: the indictment of longtime defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky for allegedly sexually assaulting eight boys over a 15-year span, perjury charges against two high-ranking school administrators - and a grand jury report that suggested Paterno knew of accusations against Sandusky and did not do enough to pursue them.
Within four days, Penn State's board of trustees had done the once-unthinkable, firing JoePa after 46 seasons as head coach.
There were 214 ballots submitted from U.S. news organizations that make up the AP's membership. The voters were asked to rank the top 10 sports stories of the year, with the first-place story getting 10 points, the second-place story receiving nine points, and so on.
The Penn State saga received 2,044 points and 172 first-place votes. It was also voted the No. 6 news story for 2011 in the AP's annual poll of U.S. editors and news directors.
The No. 2 sports story - labor strife in the NFL and NBA - had 15 first-place votes and 1,345 points.
The turmoil that at times seemed to rock college sports on a weekly basis this year was evident in the voting beyond the Penn State selection. Three more of the top 10 stories involved upheaval in the NCAA: conference realignment (No. 4); the Ohio State infractions that cost Jim Tressel his job (No. 6); and more sex abuse accusations, these involving Syracuse basketball (No. 9).
Tiger Woods' humbling return to the public eye was the top story last year.