Worst Sports Moment for Every State
The worst sports moments are about loss. The loss of a game. The loss of faith in a beloved athlete. The loss of a team. And in the very worst cases, the loss of someone's life.
To determine the worst sports moment for every state in America, we looked at teams based in each state, players on the active rosters for those teams at the time of the moment in question, individuals from those states competing in an individual sport, or an annual sporting event that occurs within a state.
Anything that relates to athletic competition was eligible for consideration. These are the worst sports moments in the history of all 50 states.
50. South Dakota: Buster Charles Goes Bust — Twice
When: 1929 and 1932
Where: Los Angeles
Team: Team USA
Sport: Track and Field
Key figures: Team USA decathlete Wilson "Buster" Charles
What happened: Charles blew big leads in the decathlon at the 1929 U.S. Championships and the 1932 Summer Olympics.
Bottom Line: South Dakota
Few athletes have come as close to legendary status and come up short as Wilson "Buster" Charles, who managed to do it twice, and in epic fashion each time.
At the 1929 U.S. Track and Field Championships, Charles won the first five events in the decathlon before he sprained his ankle.
At the 1932 Summer Olympics, Charles was leading the entire competition after the first day, only to end up finishing fourth.
What Happened Next: South Dakota
Buster Charles shook off the disappointment from 1929 and was the U.S. decathlon champion in 1930.
Charles, a member of the Oneida tribe, was a three-sport athlete at Haskell College — where he starred in football, basketball, and track and field — and was later inducted into the National Hall of Fame for Famous American Indians.
Charles, who finished as the runner-up in the decathlon in the U.S. in 1931 and 1932, lived until he was 98 years old and died in 2006.
49. Alaska: Goodbye to the Great Alaska Shootout
When: Nov. 25, 2017
Where: Alaska Airline Center (Anchorage, Alaska)
Team: University of Alaska-Anchorage
Sport: College basketball
Key figures: UAA Chancellor Sam Gingerich, UAA head coach Rusty Osborne, 2017 Shootout MVP Central Michigan guard Shawn Roundtree, 2017 Shootout MVP UAA forward Shelby Conington
What happened: Budget problems forced the Great Alaska Shootout to play for the last time in 2017, ending the longest-running regular-season college basketball tournament and highest-profile sporting event in Alaska history.
Bottom Line: Alaska
Starting in 1978, the annual college hoops tournament hosted by the University of Alaska-Anchorage brought the best of the best teams and players in men's and women's college basketball to Alaska, including UCLA, Duke, North Carolina and Kansas.
Former MVPs of the tournament include Ray Allen, Chamique Holdsclaw, Sean Elliott, Dwyane Wade, Glenn Robinson, Candice Wiggins, Klay Thompson and Nate Robinson, among others.
UAA was ahead of its time for regular-season tournaments, but the school eventually got market-corrected by tournaments in tropical locations. In its last two years, UAA officials said the tournament was losing about $500,000 per year.
What Happened Next: Alaska
Central Michigan won the final edition of the men's tournament, and UAA won the final women's tournament — the Seawolves' women's team won seven times while the men's team never even played in the finals.
The UAA men have hosted the Seawolf Thanksgiving Classic, and the UAA women have hosted the Seawolf Hoops Classic since the Great Alaska Shootout ended.
48. Vermont: Lindsey Jacobellis Celebrates Too Soon
When: Feb. 17, 2006
Where: Bardonecchia, Italy
Team: USA Snowboarding
Key figures: Team USA snowboarder Lindsey Jacobellis, Team Switzerland snowboarder Tanja Frieden
What happened: Jacobellis celebrated early in the finals of women's snowboard cross race at the 2006 Olympics, allowing Frieden to take the gold medal and finishing with the silver.
Bottom Line: Vermont
Vermont native Lindsey Jacobellis holds a special place in the celebrating-too-early pantheon of athletes. We could even call her the Olympic version of Leon Lett, but at least Lett got a Super Bowl ring.
Jacobellis had a huge lead in the finals of the women's snowboard cross at the 2006 Winter Olympics but tried an unnecessary "method grab" on the second-to-last jump, fell and was overtaken by Switzerland's Tanja Frieden.
Jacobellis made it way, way worse by not owning it: "I was having fun," she said after taking home the silver. "Snowboarding is fun and I wanted to share my enthusiasm with the crowd." Being that it was a timed race, this made little to no sense.
What Happened Next: Vermont
Jacobellis competed in the Winter Olympics three more times — in 2010, 2014 and 2018 — but never medaled again. She came the closest in 2018, when she missed a bronze medal by just .003 seconds.
Given a chance to own the mistake once again, Jacobellis went with a story that she tried the jump to maintain "stability." Which made even less sense.
47. Rhode Island: URI Sells Its Soul for Jim Harrick
When: May 4, 1997
Where: Kingston, Rhode Island
Team: University of Rhode Island
Sport: College basketball
Key figures: Rhode Island head coach Jim Harrick, Rhode Island president Robert Carothers, Rhode Island forward Lamar Odom
What happened: Rhode Island, desperate for basketball success, hired disgraced UCLA head coach Jim Harrick, who continued to cheat.
Bottom Line: Rhode Island
Rhode Island made a big deal out of its vetting process when it hired Jim Harrick, who'd been fired from UCLA just one year after winning a national championship in 1995 for falsifying expense reports.
Harrick hit on big-time success right away at URI, leading them to the Elite Eight in 1998, then landing the nation's top recruit in Lamar Odom, a future NBA star.
Reveling in the success and national exposure, URI failed to see that Harrick was back to his old tricks and was paying players, setting up cars for players, falsifying expense records and changing grades.
What Happened Next: Rhode Island
Jim Harrick jilted Rhode Island after two seasons to take the job at Georgia, where he continued to cheat his brains off.
Harrick was eventually forced to resign at Georgia when, big surprise, they found out he was falsifying expense reports, changing grades and paying players.
46. Maine: Bears Lose Shawn Walsh to Cancer
When: Sept. 24, 2001
Where: Orono, Maine
Team: University of Maine
Sport: College hockey
Key figures: Maine head coach Shawn Walsh, Maine interim head coach Tim Whitehead
What happened: Maine men's hockey coach Shawn Walsh died of cancer at 46 years old.
Bottom Line: Maine
Shawn Walsh took over Maine's previously unremarkable program in 1984, when he was just 29 years old, and went about turning them into a national powerhouse over the next 16 years.
Walsh led arguably the most dominant team in NCAA hockey history on the way to his first national title in 1993 and after serving a one-year suspension in 1995-96 for NCAA violations, built them back into a power and won another national title in 1999.
Walsh made it to five Frozen Fours before he was diagnosed with cancer in 2000 and handpicked his successor before he died in 2001.
What Happened Next: Maine
Shawn Walsh, known for his fiery and explosive temper, shocked fans when he picked the humble, soft-spoken Tim Whitehead as his successor. Once again, Walsh knew something that no one else did about people and about the game.
Whitehead led the Bears to four Frozen Four appearances in 13 seasons, including national runner-up finishes in 2002 and 2004.
The Shawn Walsh Hockey Center, where the coaches' offices and team facilities are located, opened in 2006.
45. New Hampshire: Bode Miller Comes up Empty at Winter Olympics
When: Feb. 12-25, 2006
Where: Sestriere and Cesana-San Sicario, Italy
Sport: Alpine skiing
Key figures: Team USA downhill skier Bode Miller
What happened: Olympic favorite and New Hampshire native Bode Miller missed out on medals in all five events at the 2006 Winter Olympics.
Bottom Line: New Hampshire
No Olympic athlete had more hype surrounding them headed into the 2006 Winter Olympics than downhill skier Bode Miller, the 2005 World Cup overall champion.
Miller was the source of Nike's main ad campaign for the Olympics — "Join Bode" — as well as numerous other sponsors. Miller responded by going a stunning 0-for-5 in downhill events in the mountains outside of Turin, Italy.
Miller didn't help his case because he seemed more prone to making excuses than taking accountability — which was when he wasn't acting like he just didn't care.
What Happened Next: New Hampshire
Sponsors began dropping Bode Miller as soon as the Olympics were over and the U.S. Ski Team did the same, taking away the sponsorship money Miller used to travel to events.
Miller began paying for his own travel, mockingly calling himself "Team America" and built his way back up to his crowning achievement at the 2010 Olympics, when he won three medals, including gold in the super-combined.
44. Connecticut: Huskies Say Goodbye to Big East
When: May 1, 2013
Where: Storrs, Connecticut
Team: University of Connecticut
Sport: College basketball
Key figures: UConn head coach Kevin Ollie, UConn head coach Jim Calhoun, UConn president Susan Herbst
What happened: UConn's powerful men's basketball program decided to leave the Big East for the American Athletic Conference starting with the 2013-14 season.
Bottom Line: Connecticut
Remember when the biggest story in college sports was conference realignment? Makes 2010 seem like a pretty innocent time.
Sure, UConn won the national championship in its first season in the American Athletic Conference, but that was just subterfuge. The national championship team was already in place the moment the Huskies started AAC play, passed down from Jim Calhoun to Kevin Ollie.
The strength of UConn's men's program was always playing in the Big East and the competition they faced year in and year out, which is what led to the four national titles for the men's team.
What Happened Next: Connecticut
After UConn won the national title in Kevin Ollie's second season, the bottom fell out.
UConn has only been back to the NCAA tournament once in the six seasons since, and Ollie's career ended in disgrace when he was fired, with cause, for the dreaded "failure to monitor" in 2018, after posting back-to-back seasons with losing records.
UConn, desperate to return to its former glory, replaced Ollie with Dan Hurley and paid a stunning $20.5 million to leave the AAC and get back to the Big East in 2020 — a $17 million exit fee to the AAC and $3.5 million to rejoin its old conference.
43. Wisconsin: Packers Pick 'The Incredible Bust'
When: April 23, 1989
Where: New York Marriott Marquis (New York City, New York)
Team: Green Bay Packers
Key figures: Michigan State offensive tackle Tony Mandarich, Green Bay head coach Lindy Infante, Green Bay director of football operations Tom Braatz
What happened: The Packers drafted Tony Mandarich No. 2 overall — the only player taken in the first five picks of the 1989 NFL draft who did not make the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Bottom Line: Wisconsin
In the quarter-century after Vince Lombardi left, the Packers were defined by ineptitude and losing, with only five winning seasons from 1968 to 1991.
Even with all of that misery, nothing stands out from that period more than the selection of Michigan State offensive tackle Tony Mandarich with the No. 2 overall pick in the 1989 NFL draft. Mandarich had a massive appetite for steroids, painkillers and talking about himself in the third person.
He was cut after three lackluster seasons for a "non-football injury." The next three picks after Mandarich in the 1989 draft were Barry Sanders, Derrick Thomas and Deion Sanders.
What Happened Next: Wisconsin
Mandarich is a top five draft bust of all time. That's really not up for debate.
We do have to give him credit for being one of the few offensive linemen in NFL history to capture the public's imagination, to the point he was on the cover of Sports Illustrated twice.
Mandarich left football for three years, then returned to play three seasons for the Indianapolis Colts from 1996 to 1998.
42. Montana: Grizz Watch Perfect Season Slip Away
When: Dec. 18, 2009
Where: Finley Stadium (Chattanooga, Tennessee)
Team: University of Montana
Sport: College football
Key figures: Villanova head coach Andy Talley, Villanova wide receiver Matt Szczur, Montana head coach Bobby Hauck, Montana wide receiver Marc Mariani
What happened: Undefeated, No. 1 Montana saw a 14-3 lead slip away against Villanova in the FCS championship game on the way to a 23-21 loss.
Bottom Line: Montana
Montana already had won two national championships, in 1995 and 2001, but the Grizzlies had lost in the national title game twice since then, in 2004 and 2008.
In 2009, they were loaded to the gills and entered the national championship game 14-0 and favored to beat Villanova, which was making its first appearance in the national championship game.
Montana went up 14-3 in the first half before Villanova and star wide receiver Matt Szczur went to work. Szczur scored two touchdowns and racked up 227 yards of total offense as Villanova scored 20 unanswered points.
What Happened Next: Montana
Montana head coach Bobby Hauck left after the season to become the head coach at UNLV, but returned to become Montana's head coach in 2018.
Montana was hit with major recruiting violations by the NCAA in 2013 and hasn't played in a national championship game since the 2009 loss.
41. New York: James Dolan Takes Control of Knicks
When: Jan. 1, 1999
Where: Madison Square Garden (New York City, New York)
Team: New York Knicks
Key figures: New York Knicks owner James Dolan
What happened: Billionaire Cablevision heir James Dolan gained control of the company's vast sports properties, including the crown jewel New York Knicks.
Bottom Line: New York
It didn't take long for James Dolan to become among the most reviled owners in the history of sports, and that stems directly from his ineptitude in handling what should be one of the NBA's signature franchises — the New York Knicks.
After making the NBA Finals in the strike-shortened 1999 season, the Knicks didn't win another playoff series until 2012-13 and were so poorly run that former NBA commissioner David Stern said in 2007 the team was "not a model of intelligent management."
Stern wasn't wrong.
What Happened Next: New York
Because Dolan is still the owner of the Knicks and will be for the foreseeable future, it's not too much of a stretch to say we'll be seeing ineptitude from this franchise for years to come.
The biggest problem facing the Knicks now is their inability to sign any high-profile free agents, as NBA players have come to loathe Dolan as much as the fans do.
The list of players who have considered the Knicks as a free-agent destination in the last 20 years is a who's who of NBA talent. And they've signed none of them.
40. New Jersey: Nets Give Dr. J Away
When: Oct. 20, 1976
Where: Brooklyn, New York
Team: New York Nets
Key figures: Nets forward Julius "Dr. J" Erving, Nets owner Roy Boe, 76ers owner Fitz Eugene Dixon Jr.
What happened: The New York Nets sold Dr. J's contract to the 76ers for $6 million.
Bottom Line: New Jersey
This deal actually occurred while the Nets were still in their first go-round in Brooklyn, but selling Dr. J's contract to the 76ers essentially doomed the soon-to-be New Jersey franchise to a degree of ineptitude that they still haven't been able to totally shake to this day.
The Nets were strapped for cash when they made the move from the ABA to the NBA in 1976, and joining the league was contingent upon a $3.2 million "entry fee" and a $5 million fee for "invading" the space already owned by the New York Knicks.
So when the 76ers offered to buy Dr. J's contract for $6 million, they had little choice but to sell.
What Happened Next: New Jersey
If the Nets had figured out a way to leverage something — anything — against the money they owed instead of Dr. J, the return on investment within four years would have been either double or triple the $6 million they took from the 76ers.
Nets owner Roy Boe said the Dr. J deal essentially "ruined the franchise," and he regretted it for the rest of his life.
Dr. J made the 76ers a hot property in the new-look NBA and won a world championship in 1983.
39. Oklahoma: Sooners Embarrassed in Orange Bowl
When: Jan. 4, 2005
Where: Pro Player Stadium (Miami Gardens, Florida)
Team: University of Oklahoma
Sport: College football
Key figures: USC quarterback Matt Leinart, Oklahoma quarterback Jason White, USC running back Reggie Bush, Oklahoma running back Adrian Peterson
What happened: USC laid a 55-19 beatdown on Oklahoma in the BCS Championship Game.
Bottom Line: Oklahoma
There have been few times where the predicted outcome for the national championship and the actual result have been so different. In this case, USC was favored by just one point but led 38-10 at halftime and 55-10 halfway through the fourth quarter.
Oklahoma was undefeated and had what it thought was one of the best teams in program history, including a former Heisman Trophy winner at quarterback in Jason White and a Heisman Trophy runner-up at running back in future NFL All-Pro Adrian Peterson.
It's rare that a loss in a championship game negates an entire season of good play. This was one of those times.
What Happened Next: Oklahoma
Oklahoma returned to the BCS Championship Game in 2009, when it lost to Florida, and it is 0-4 in the College Football Playoff since its inception, losing each time in the semifinals.
Adding insult to injury, USC was stripped of its 2005 national title after being found guilty of numerous recruiting violations and the year was just left "vacant" on all the record books.
38. Hawaii: UH Goes Winless in 1998
When: Nov. 28, 1998
Where: Aloha Stadium (Honolulu, Hawaii)
Team: University of Hawaii
Sport: College football
Key figures: Hawaii head coach Fred von Appen, San Diego Chargers head coach June Jones
What happened: Hawaii completed its first winless season, going 0-12 with a 48-17 home loss to the University of Michigan in the final game of the regular season.
Bottom Line: Hawaii
Fred von Appen made his mark as the special teams coach for the San Francisco 49ers from 1983 to 1988, winning two Super Bowls before becoming a defensive coordinator for the University of Pittsburgh and Stanford.
His only head coaching opportunity came with the University of Hawaii, where he lasted just three seasons. He went 2-10 in 1996, 3-9 in 1997 and 0-12 in 1998 before he was fired.
By the time of von Appen's dismissal, home attendance for Hawaii games had dropped to a record-low 29,000 per game, which was down from 44,000 just four years before von Appen was hired.
What Happened Next: Hawaii
Hawaii needed to make a big splash to bring the program back from the dead after von Appen trashed university leadership on his way out the door — mainly about how unwilling they were to financially support the team.
Hawaii hired San Diego Chargers interim head coach June Jones, who led the way to the greatest single-season turnaround in NCAA history. Hawaii went 9-4 in 1999 and won a share of the WAC championship.
37. Virginia: Cavs Make Wrong Kind of History
When: March 16, 2018
Where: Spectrum Center (Charlotte, North Carolina)
Team: University of Virginia
Sport: College basketball
Key figures: UMBC head coach Ryan Odom, Virginia head coach Tony Bennett, Virginia forward De'Andre Hunter
What happened: University of Maryland-Baltimore County became the first No. 16 seed to beat a No. 1 seed in the NCAA men's tournament, taking down Virginia 74-54.
Bottom Line: Virginia
UMBC received an automatic bid after winning the America East Conference tournament and was assigned the No. 16 seed in the South Region, where they faced No. 1 seed Virginia, which was also the top seed in the entire tournament.
Virginia was favored by 20.5 points, making UMBC's win the second-biggest point-spread upset in tournament history. Prior to the game, No. 16 seeds were 0-135 against No. 1 seeds.
What doesn't come up when the game is talked about very much is the fact that Virginia lost its best player, forward De'Andre Hunter, just two days before the game when he broke his wrist.
What Happened Next: Virginia
UMBC lost to Kansas State in the next round, but the way Virginia handled the most stinging defeat in program history spoke volumes.
Cavs coach Tony Bennett gave all the credit to UMBC and coach Ryan Odom for a "thorough butt whipping."
Then, Virginia won the first NCAA championship in program history the very next season.
36. Alabama: Tide Lose Iron Bowl on 'Kick Six'
When: November 30, 2013
Where: Jordan-Hare Stadium (Auburn, Alabama)
Team: University of Alabama
Sport: College football
Key figures: Auburn cornerback/return specialist Chris Davis, Auburn defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson, Alabama head coach Nick Saban, Alabama kicker Adam Griffith
What happened: Auburn's Chris Davis caught a field-goal attempt in the back of the end zone as time ran out in the fourth quarter and ran it back 109 yards for a game-winning touchdown and a 34-28 win over Alabama in the Iron Bowl.
Bottom Line: Alabama
Alabama head coach Nick Saban challenged a call by the referees and got one second put back on the clock in the fourth quarter to attempt a game-winning, 58-yard field goal by Adam Griffith with the score tied 28-28.
Auburn defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson suggested punt returner Chris Davis line up in the back of the end zone, so if the kick was short he could return it.
Griffith shorted the kick, Davis caught the ball at the back line of the end zone and ran 109 yards to immortality.
What Happened Next: Alabama
Auburn's win ended Alabama's run at a third consecutive national title, while Auburn went on to lose to Florida State, 34-31, in the BCS National Championship Game. That loss snapped a four-year streak of the winning team in the Iron Bowl going on to win the national championship.
Alabama won its next national title in 2015, kicking off a four-year streak of playing in the CFP Championship Game, where the Crimson Tide won it all again in 2017.
35. Missouri: Don Denkinger's Blown Call for the Ages
When: Oct. 26, 1985
Where: Royals Stadium (Kansas City, Missouri)
Team: St. Louis Cardinals
Key figures: St. Louis relief pitcher Todd Worrell, St. Louis first baseman Jack Clark, Kansas City Royals pinch hitter Jorge Orta, umpire Don Denkinger
What happened: Denkinger mistakenly called Kansas City's Orta safe at first in the bottom of the ninth inning of Game 6 of the World Series with St. Louis leading the game 1-0 and the series 3-2 — now simply known as "The Call" by baseball fans.
Bottom Line: Missouri
St. Louis was three outs away from its second World Series title in four years when relief pitcher Todd Worrell took the mound with a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the ninth inning of Game 6.
Jorge Orta led off the inning and hit a chopper to Jack Clark, who fielded the ball and tossed it to Worrell clearly ahead of Orta touching the bag. Denkinger, who said he was listening for the ball to hit Worrell's mitt, called Orta safe. Clark missed another out on a foul pop-up, and Dane Iorg delivered a game-winning, two-RBI single for the win.
Denkinger later said the crowd in Kansas City was too loud for him to hear the ball hit Worrell's mitt.
What Happened Next: Missouri
The Royals rolled out ace Bret Saberhagen for an 11-0 win in Game 7, giving the Royals the first World Series title in franchise history.
St. Louis manager Whitey Herzog, who was ejected by Denkinger in Game 7, wrote in his autobiography that he wished he would have called MLB commissioner Peter Ueberroth out of the stands to overturn the call.
Denkinger received death threats for years after the call and umpired until 1993.
34. North Dakota: UND Clings to Racist Mascot
When: Nov. 18, 2015
Where: Grand Forks, North Dakota
Team: University of North Dakota
Sports: All UND teams
Key figures: UND president Robert Kelley, North Dakota governor Jack Dalrymple, North Dakota attorney general Wayne Stenehjem, Standing Rock and Spirit Lake Sioux tribes
What happened: The University of North Dakota lost a decade-long battle to keep its "Fighting Sioux" mascot.
Bottom Line: North Dakota
The NCAA took a hard line in 2005 and placed sanctions on 19 schools with culturally inappropriate mascots that included the schools not being able to host postseason championships and not being able to use their logos or names in postseason play.
No school fought harder to keep its nickname than the University of North Dakota, which immediately took the NCAA to court. The two sides came to a settlement centered around receiving support from North Dakota's three native Sioux tribes within three years.
That didn't happen, so in 2009, another prolonged legal battle began to keep the name. In 2012, the NCAA reiterated its stance on the sanctions from 2005, and the school said it would rid itself of the old mascot by 2015.
What Happened Next: North Dakota
UND president Robert Kelley gave the public five options for names to vote on in 2015. The most popular option at the time was to simply be called "North Dakota" in all competitions.
Fans eventually selected "Fighting Hawks" as its nickname, narrowly beating out "Roughriders," and the school began using the new mascot immediately.
33. New Mexico: 'Woodson Curse' Becomes Very Real
When: Dec. 1, 1967
Where: Las Cruces, New Mexico
Team: New Mexico State University
Sport: College football
Key figures: New Mexico State head coach Warren Woodson, New Mexico State president Roger B. Carholt, New Mexico State assistant coach Jim Wood
What happened: New Mexico State officials used a technicality to force out Woodson, the most successful head coach in school history.
Bottom Line: New Mexico
Warren Woodson wasn't always the easiest guy to get along with, and his brusque demeanor was arguably what got him forced out at Arizona in 1956.
He resurfaced with an added determination at New Mexico State in 1958, where he coached for a decade and led the Aggies to the greatest run of success in its history, including back-to-back Sun Bowl wins and an undefeated 11-0 season in 1960.
But Woodson rubbed New Mexico State officials the wrong way, and in 1967, they used a clause that forced state officials to retire at 65 to oust Woodson, who had just gone 7-2-1 and ended the year with a 54-7 win over rival New Mexico. He was replaced by top assistant Jim Wood.
What Happened Next: New Mexico
Say what you will about the validity of "sports curses" — they usually don't come into play unless there's something concrete behind them. In the case of New Mexico State's fabled "Woodson Curse" we've got plenty of evidence. In the 50 seasons since Woodson's ouster, New Mexico State had just four winning seasons and didn't make it back to a bowl game until 2017, when they defeated Utah State in the Arizona Bowl.
32. Colorado: Buffs' Dream Season Ends in Heartache
When: Jan. 1, 1990
Where: Orange Bowl (Miami, Florida)
Team: University of Colorado
Sport: College football
Key figures: Colorado head coach Bill McCartney, Notre Dame head coach Lou Holtz, former Colorado quarterback Sal Aunese, Notre Dame flanker Raghib Ismail
What happened: One win from its first national championship, undefeated Colorado lost to Notre Dame in the Orange Bowl.
Bottom Line: Colorado
Colorado played inspired football in 1989 in honor of former quarterback Sal Aunese, the Buffaloes' starter the previous two seasons, after Aunese was diagnosed with cancer in March 1989 and died six months later.
Colorado dedicated its season that year to Aunese and entered the Orange Bowl undefeated against defending national champion Notre Dame, which still had an outside shot at the title.
Tied 0-0 at halftime, Colorado watched the game slowly slip away in the second half on the way to a 21-6 loss.
What Happened Next: Colorado
Notre Dame's win capped off an 11-1 season with one of the toughest schedules in college football.
Miami, also with an 11-1 record, was awarded the national title because of a head-to-head win over Notre Dame.
Colorado got its national title the next season but ended up having to share it with Georgia Tech after the two polls picked different national champions.
31. Tennessee: Titans Come up One Yard Short
When: Jan. 30, 2000
Where: Georgia Dome (Atlanta, Georgia)
Team: Tennessee Titans
Key figures: Tennessee wide receiver Kevin Dyson, St. Louis linebacker Mike Jones
What happened: Jones tackled Dyson at the Rams' 1-yard line as time ran out in Super Bowl XXXIV, giving the Rams a 23-16 victory.
Bottom Line: Tennessee
The Titans drove to the Rams' 10-yard line with just six seconds left in the game and trailing 23-16.
Tennessee quarterback Steve McNair hit Kevin Dyson on a quick crossing pattern at the 5-yard line, and as Jones began to wrap him up for the tackle, the two went rolling and Dyson reached the ball out for the goal line, just inches from breaking the plane.
"The Tackle" went down as one of the most iconic endings in NFL history.
What Happened Next: Tennessee
The win gave the Rams their first and only Super Bowl win (to date).
It also gave Dyson, who played until 2003, a starring role in two of the most well-known plays in NFL history after his touchdown run on the "Music City Miracle" less than one month earlier.
Jones closed out his career with the Raiders in 2002.
30. Iowa: Larry Owings Shocks Dan Gable in NCAA Finals
When: March 28, 1970
Where: Northwestern University (Chicago, Illinois)
Team: Iowa State University
Key figures: Iowa State wrestler Dan Gable, University of Washington wrestler Larry Owings
What happened: Owings pulled off perhaps the greatest upset in NCAA history by beating Gable in his final collegiate match — the 142-pound final at the NCAA Championships.
Bottom Line: Iowa
It speaks to the impact this one match had that it is simply known in wrestling history as "Gable-Owings" and, over the decades, has taken on somewhat mystical status.
Dan Gable, wrestling at a time where freshmen still weren't eligible for varsity competition, was a two-time national champion and 181-0 for his high school and college career headed into the championship match of his senior year against Larry Owings.
On the other side, Owings was a brash sophomore for Washington, who'd openly pined for another shot against Gable after losing to him in the 1968 U.S. Olympic trials. Owings won, 13-11, shocking the 8,800 people who saw it live and a national audience the next week on Wide World of Sports.
What Happened Next: Iowa
The loss sparked Dan Gable to the next stage of his career as the greatest wrestler and greatest coach of all time.
He won a gold medal at the 1972 Olympics without allowing a point, then coached the University of Iowa for 21 years and won 15 national championships.
Owings lost in the NCAA finals the next two years and became a high school teacher, wrestling coach and later administrator.
29. Arizona: John Paxson's 3-Pointer Sinks Suns
When: June 20, 1993
Where: America West Arena (Phoenix, Arizona)
Team: Phoenix Suns
Key figures: Chicago Bulls guard John Paxson, Chicago Bulls forward Horace Grant, Phoenix head coach Paul Westphal, Phoenix guard Danny Ainge
What happened: Paxson hit the game-winning, series-winning 3-pointer in Game 6 of the NBA Finals with 3.9 seconds left to clinch the Bulls' third straight NBA title.
Bottom Line: Arizona
With the Suns leading 98-96 and ready to force a Game 7 in Phoenix, Paul Westphal gave his last instructions to the Suns coming out of the timeout before John Paxson's shot — do not double-team any players on the Bulls, not even Michael Jordan, no matter what happened on the play.
After Charles Barkley overplayed Scottie Pippen, allowing Pippen to drive an open lane, Danny Ainge slid down to cut off Pippen and left Paxson wide open. Pippen passed to Chicago forward Horace Grant, who whipped a perfect pass to Paxson.
Paxson nailed the game-winning shot and made the Bulls the first team since the 1960s to win three consecutive NBA titles.
What Happened Next: Arizona
The Suns haven't been back to the NBA Finals since 1993, but the Bulls took a few years off before winning three more NBA titles in a row.
The Suns were actually a playoff contender for most of the next two decades, losing in the Western Conference finals three times between 2004 and 2010.
They haven't made the playoffs since 2010.
28. West Virginia: WVU Can't Grab the Ring
When: Jan. 2. 1989
Where: Sun Devil Stadium (Tempe, Arizona)
Team: West Virginia University
Sport: College football
Key figures: West Virginia quarterback Major Harris, Notre Dame quarterback Tony Rice, West Virginia head coach Don Nehlen, Notre Dame head coach Lou Holtz
What happened: West Virginia was one win away from a national title when it lost to Notre Dame, 34-21, in the Fiesta Bowl.
Bottom Line: West Virginia
When No. 3 West Virginia faced No. 1 Notre Dame in the 1989 Fiesta Bowl, that was about as close as 1980s fans could get to an actual "national championship" with both teams unbeaten heading into the game.
Things soured quickly for the Mountaineers after star quarterback Major Harris separated his shoulder on the third play. He continued playing but was hampered by the injury the rest of the game.
Notre Dame built a big lead and held off a WVU rally for the national title.
What Happened Next: West Virginia
Notre Dame still hasn't won another national title, and West Virginia hasn't even come close to winning a national title in the three decades since this game.
Don Nehlen coached the Mountaineers until 2000, while Lou Holtz coached at Notre Dame until 1996.
27. Delaware: Hens Blow Huge Lead in FCS Championship
When: Jan. 7, 2011
Where: Pizza Hut Park (Frisco, Texas)
Team: University of Delaware
Sport: College football
Key figures: Eastern Washington quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell, Eastern Washington wide receiver Brandon Kaufman, Eastern Washington head coach Beau Baldwin, Delaware quarterback Pat Devlin, Delaware head coach K.C. Keeler
What happened: Delaware blew a 19-0 lead late in the third quarter as Eastern Washington stormed back for a 20-19 win in the FCS national championship game.
Bottom Line: Delaware
Delaware seemed to have its seventh national championship in hand when it went up 19-0 against Eastern Washington with five minutes left in the third quarter of the FCS championship game.
EWU had other ideas, reeling off 20 unanswered points for the win with a virtuoso performance from quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell, who threw three touchdown passes in the final 15 minutes of play.
Mitchell's standout play came as Delaware star quarterback Pat Devlin fell flat. Two drives in the first half stalled out, and the Hens settled for field goals.
What Happened Next: Delaware
It was Delaware's second straight loss in the national championship game under head coach K.C. Keeler, who led the Hens to a national title in 2003.
Delaware fired Keeler midway through the 2016 season, and Delaware wouldn't return to the playoffs again after the 2010 season until 2018, when the Hens lost to James Madison in the first round.
26. Idaho: Boise State Loses Chris Petersen to Washington
When: Dec. 6, 2013
Where: Seattle, Washington
Team: Boise State University
Sport: College football
Key figures: Boise State head coach Chris Petersen, USC head coach Steve Sarkisian, Washington athletic director Scott Woodward
What happened: Chris Petersen left Boise State after eight seasons to become head coach at Washington.
Bottom Line: Idaho
Chris Petersen left Boise State after an unprecedented run of success over eight seasons — 92 wins, five conference titles and two Fiesta Bowl wins, including the famous 2007 Fiesta Bowl win over Oklahoma.
Boise State did a great job of increasing Petersen's pay as his profile increased and teams came calling every year. Petersen's decision to leave couldn't have come at a worse time for Boise State. Their profile rose significantly during his tenure and the first College Football Playoff was just two years later.
It would have been hard to keep Boise State out of the mix with Petersen at the helm.
What Happened Next: Idaho
Washington's head coach opening came after Steve Sarkisian left for USC, where he flamed out and was fired within two seasons.
Petersen led Washington into the College Football Playoff semifinals in the CFP's first year, then to the Fiesta Bowl and the Rose Bowl the next two seasons.
Petersen retired from head coaching in 2019 after six seasons at Washington, and in his final game, Washington beat Boise State in the Las Vegas Bowl.
25. Washington: Seahawks Pull Defeat From Jaws of Victory
When: Feb. 1, 2015
Where: University of Phoenix Stadium (Glendale, Arizona)
Team: Seattle Seahawks
Key figures: Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, Seattle wide receiver Ricardo Lockette, Seattle head coach Pete Carroll, New England cornerback Malcolm Butler, New England head coach Bill Belichick
What happened: Seattle had the ball at the Patriots' 1-yard line with just seconds left, and Butler intercepted a pass by Wilson to win the Super Bowl.
Bottom Line: Washington
Seattle had one of the best running backs in the NFL, Marshawn Lynch, and one of the best running quarterbacks in the NFL, Russell Wilson, but they decided to throw a pass from the Patriots' 1-yard line with 26 seconds left and trailing 28-24 in the Super Bowl.
To this day, there's not a clear explanation of why the Seahawks tried to throw the ball. However, they'd shown tendencies to try and do just that throughout the season.
Belichick drilled that specific play into Butler's head, and the undrafted rookie from West Alabama had been paying attention.
What Happened Next: Washington
The fact Seattle came so close to winning back-to-back Super Bowls made this loss even more heartbreaking for the team and fans.
But what about that call? If you're looking for evidence why Pete Carroll's players love him, his response to the interception is a big reason.
Carroll has managed to shoulder almost 100 percent of the blame for it — even if common sense tells us that's probably not the case.
24. Mississippi: Freeze's Transgressions Rock Ole Miss
When: July 20, 2017
Where: Oxford, Mississippi
Team: University of Mississippi
Sport: College football
Key figures: Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze, Ole Miss chancellor Jeff Vitter, Ole Miss athletic director Ross Bjork
What happened: Given the option to resign or be fired after five seasons, Freeze chose to resign in the wake of overlapping scandals.
Bottom Line: Mississippi
No coach did more to damage the reputation of Ole Miss in a shorter time than Freeze, who was hired away from Arkansas State by Ole Miss in December 2011. Shortly after winning the 2016 Sugar Bowl, the wheels started to come off when the NCAA accused Ole Miss of a wide range of violations, from illegal cash and car gifts to having another person take a college entrance exam for a player.
Freeze tried to weasel his way out of trouble by blaming his predecessor, Houston Nutt, who responded by suing Ole Miss for defamation. Part of the lawsuit included Ole Miss handing over Freeze's cell phone records, which included the bombshell revelation he'd been calling escort services almost since he'd arrived in Oxford.
Given the option to resign or be fired, Freeze chose to resign.
What Happened Next: Mississippi
The NCAA came down hard on Ole Miss in February 2019 for recruiting and academic violations committed under Houston Nutt and Hugh Freeze.
The school received a two-year postseason ban, three years of probation and a four-year reduction of scholarships. Ole Miss was stripped of 33 wins from 2010 to 2016, including 27 of Freeze's wins.
Liberty hired Freeze as its head coach in December 2018, and he received a five-year contract extension after the 2019 season.
23. Kentucky: Louisville Vacates 2013 National Title
When: Feb. 20, 2018
Where: Louisville, Kentucky
Team: University of Louisville
Sport: College basketball
Key figures: Louisville head coach Rick Pitino, Louisville director of basketball operations Andre McGee, Katina Powell
What happened: Louisville was forced to vacate its 2013 NCAA championship and 2012 Final Four, along with all wins from 2011 to 2015 after an investigation into multiple scandals involving the men's basketball team.
Bottom Line: Kentucky
Yahoo! Sports reported in 2015 that self-proclaimed "escort queen" Katina Powell's upcoming book, "Breaking Cardinal Rules," contained explosive allegations against the Louisville men's basketball program — namely that Powell said she'd received thousands of dollars from Andre McGee from 2010 to 2014 to provide escorts to have sex with players and recruits.
The ensuing NCAA investigation found both Rick Pitino and McGee guilty of major NCAA violations in June 2017 and vacated the school's 2013 national title and 2012 Final Four, along with all of their wins from 2011 to 2015.
What Happened Next: Kentucky
In September 2017, further NCAA investigations revealed Pitino's involvement in an elaborate "pay for play" scandal, and he was fired with cause.
Louisville's players sued, successfully, to have their individual stats and records reinstated. Pitino also sued Louisville and had his departure changed from "firing" to "resignation" and was hired as Iona's new head coach in March 2020.
22. Nebraska: Tom Osborne Goes for the Win
When: Jan. 2, 1984
Where: Orange Bowl (Miami, Florida)
Team: University of Nebraska
Sport: College football
Key figures: Nebraska head coach Tom Osborne, Miami defensive back Kenny Calhoun, Nebraska quarterback Turner Gill, Nebraska running back Jeff Smith
What happened: With the national title on the line and less than a minute to play, Osborne decided to go for a 2-point conversion instead of a tie against Miami in the 1984 Orange Bowl.
Bottom Line: Nebraska
Nebraska, undefeated and No. 1, could have won the national title by simply converting the PAT after scoring a touchdown to make the score 31-30 with 48 seconds left.
Turner Gill tried to float a pass to Jeff Smith for the win, but it was broken up by Kenny Calhoun, sealing the win for Miami in one of the greatest college football games of all time.
Osborne made it clear that he didn't think winning the national championship with a tie when they had a chance to win was something his players wanted, nor something he wanted.
What Happened Next: Nebraska
Miami's win, along with a loss by No. 2 Texas and an unimpressive win by No. 3 Auburn, helped the Hurricanes leapfrog into the No. 1 spot and the first of five national titles.
Nebraska won its first national title under Osborne in 1994, then again in 1995 and 1997 before Osborne retired.
21. Louisiana: Epic Blown Call Costs Saints NFC Title
When: Jan. 20, 2019
Where: Mercedes Benz Superdome (New Orleans, Louisiana)
Team: New Orleans Saints
Key figures: New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees, New Orleans wide receiver Tommylee Lewis, Los Angeles Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman, referee Bill Vinovich
What happened: Vinovich missed an obvious pass interference and helmet-to-helmet call on Robey-Coleman that likely cost the Saints the NFC championship.
Bottom Line: Louisiana
The Saints had the ball at the Rams' 13-yard line with 1:49 left in the fourth quarter and the score tied 20-20 in the NFC championship game.
Drew Brees threw to Tommylee Lewis at the 6-yard line and Nickell Robey-Coleman didn't attempt to make a play on the ball. Instead, he hit Lewis facemask-to-facemask and shoved him in the chest as the ball approached. Vinovich, standing next to the two players, didn't throw a flag for either penalty.
The Saints were forced to kick a field goal instead of having first-and-goal, the Rams tied the game on their final drive to force overtime and won 26-23 to advance to the Super Bowl.
What Happened Next: Louisiana
Vinovich's mistake quickly began being tossed about as possibly the worst missed call in NFL history, considering the stakes.
The non-call was almost universally condemned — Robey-Coleman admitted he committed the pass interference in order to prevent a touchdown. The incident made pass-interference calls reviewable for the first time starting in 2019.
The Rams lost to the Patriots in the Super Bowl, 13-3. And Vinovich was selected to referee the Super Bowl in 2020.
20. Arkansas: Bobby Petrino's Lies Lead to Dismissal
When: April 10, 2012
Where: Fayetteville, Arkansas
Team: University of Arkansas
Sport: College football
Key figures: Arkansas head coach Bobby Petrino, Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long, former Arkansas volleyball player Jessica Dorrell
What happened: Arkansas fired Petrino, a married father of four, after a university investigation revealed his long-term affair with Dorrell.
Bottom Line: Arkansas
Bobby Petrino was headed into his fifth season with Arkansas and ready to contend for a national title when he wrecked his motorcycle with Jessica Dorrell riding on the back.
Petrino, who had to be hospitalized, told Arkansas officials he was riding by himself, but the police report and 911 calls revealed otherwise, and he admitted to a sexual relationship with Dorrell.
Even more problematic was a $20,000 cash payment Petrino had made to Dorrell, along with a $55,000 per year job in the athletic department thanks to Petrino. Long fired Petrino with cause, revoking the $18 million buyout clause in his contract.
What Happened Next: Arkansas
Dorrell was engaged to another employee of the athletic department during the affair, strength coach Josh Morgan, and the two later married.
Petrino was hired by Western Kentucky and coached there for one season. Then, he was rehired by Louisville, where he coached five seasons before he was fired (for losing) and was hired by Missouri State in January 2020.
In the eight seasons since Petrino left, Arkansas has posted five losing records and back-to-back 2-10 seasons in 2018 and 2019.
19. Indiana: Hoosiers Part Ways With Knight
When: Sept. 10, 2000
Where: Bloomington, Indiana
Team: University of Indiana
Sport: College basketball
Key figures: Indiana head coach Bob Knight, Indiana president Myles Brand, Indiana student Kent Harvey
What happened: Indiana head coach Bob Knight was fired after 29 seasons and three national championships.
Bottom Line: Indiana
Just to clarify, Bob Knight getting fired wasn't a bad thing. But it was seismic in the state of Indiana. Knight was on a zero-tolerance policy set forth by Myles Brand after several incidents, the most notable being a video of Knight grabbing a former player around his neck during practice.
Keny Harvey, then a freshman at Indiana, said "What's up Knight?" to the Hall of Fame coach on campus. Knight grabbed Harvey's shirt and told him to call him "Mr. Knight" or "Coach Knight."
Brand gave Knight the opportunity to resign. He refused and was fired immediately.
What Happened Next: Indiana
Knight took one season off before becoming head coach at Texas Tech, where he coached for seven seasons and turned the program around.
He retired in 2008 and turned the program over to his son, Pat Knight.
Brand left Indiana to become president of the NCAA, where he was in office until his death in 2009.
18. South Carolina: One Brawl to Rule Them All
When: Nov. 20, 2004
Where: Memorial Stadium (Clemson, South Carolina)
Teams: University of South Carolina and Clemson University
Sport: College football
Key figures: Clemson head coach Tommy Bowden, South Carolina head coach Lou Holtz
What happened: The regular-season finale between in-state rivals South Carolina and Clemson resulted in one of the worst on-field altercations in college football history.
Bottom Line: South Carolina
In South Carolina head coach Lou Holtz’s final game, the Gamecocks decided to meet Clemson at the end of their famed "Tiger Walk" to the field, and a helmet-to-helmet hit by Clemson’s defense late in the game sparked something bigger.
The fight came one day after the NBA’s infamous "Malice at the Palace" brawl and produced the unforgettable image of Clemson’s Yusuf Kelly kicking a helmetless South Carolina player as he lay on the ground and tried to cover his head.
Both schools announced they would not play in bowl games as a result of the fight, and all returning players who fought were suspended for one game the next season.
What Happened Next: South Carolina
The fight overshadowed what would end up being the last game of Holtz's career, which was also a 29-7 loss by the Gamecocks.
Both schools stepped in quickly with punishments of their own, banning each school from playing in bowls that year.
Both teams had players suspended by the ACC and SEC, respectively. And there were so many suspension that they had to be staggered.
17. Michigan: Webber's Untimely Timeout
When: April 5, 1993
Where: Louisiana Superdome (New Orleans, Louisiana)
Team: University of Michigan
Sport: College basketball
Key figures: Michigan forward Chris Webber
What happened: Michigan forward Chris Webber called a timeout with none remaining, trailing North Carolina 73-71 with the ball and 11 seconds left in the NCAA championship game. Michigan was charged with a technical foul, and North Carolina won the championship.
Bottom Line: Michigan
Michigan was playing in the national championship game for the second consecutive year with the famed Fab Five of Chris Webber, Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard, Jimmy King and Ray Jackson.
Webber rebounded a North Carolina miss and actually traveled, then began dribbling up the court. Webber later claimed someone on the Michigan bench told him to call timeout as he dribbled past, which was later backed up with some photos.
North Carolina hit both of the free throws off the technical, then two more to close out the 77-71 win and the national title.
What Happened Next: Michigan
Webber's mistake went beyond the realm of just basketball fans. It seemed to permeate every aspect of pop culture. Before the 24-hour news cycle was even a thing, Webber's errant timeout call had legs.
Webber left Michigan after two seasons for the NBA draft, where he was the No. 1 overall pick in 1993. After an NCAA investigation revealed numerous violations by Michigan during Webber's time there, all of the records from his two years were taken off the books.
16. Utah: 'The Shot' Breaks Utah's Heart
When: June 14, 1998
Where: Delta Center (Salt Lake City, Utah)
Team: Utah Jazz
Key figures: Utah forward Bryon Russell, Chicago guard Michael Jordan
What happened: Jordan hit the game-winning shot in Game 6 of the NBA Finals to give Chicago an 87-86 win and its sixth NBA title.
Bottom Line: Utah
During a chance encounter, Bryon Russell made the mistake of trash-talking Michael Jordan while he temporarily retired from basketball to pursue a career in professional baseball. "Why did you quit? You know I could guard you," said Russell.
It was a mistake that would come back to haunt him. Jordan kept the perceived slight close to his chest, then took his revenge in Game 6 of the NBA Finals when he went up and over Russell for the game-winning jump shot with 5.2 seconds left to play.
It was the second straight year the two teams met in the finals, adding more misery to an already bruised fanbase.
What Happened Next: Utah
Jordan rode off into the sunset (temporarily) while the Jazz tried to regroup for another run at the title with two aging stars in John Stockton and Karl Malone.
Neither franchise has played in the NBA Finals since 1998. Russell played eight more seasons before retiring from basketball in 2006.
15. Minnesota: Vikings Collapse in NFC Championship
When: Jan. 17, 1999
Where: Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome (Minneapolis, Minnesota)
Team: Minnesota Vikings
Key figures: Minnesota Vikings kicker Gary Anderson, Atlanta Falcons kicker Morten Andersen
What happened: The Vikings suffered one of the most devastating losses in NFL history via a 30-27 upset by the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC championship game.
Bottom Line: Minnesota
The Vikings were 11-point favorites at home against the Falcons in the NFC championship game after going 15-1 in the regular season and setting the NFL record for points. Before 1998, the other two teams to go 15-1 were the San Francisco 49ers and Chicago Bears, and they both won the Super Bowl.
As the overwhelming favorite to win the Super Bowl, the game seemed more like an NFC coronation, but the Falcons (and fate) had other plans. The biggest impetus for the loss seems to hang on Vikings kicker Gary Anderson, who set an NFL record in 1998 by not missing an extra point or a field goal.
With 2:11 left in the fourth quarter, Anderson missed a 39-yard field goal that would've put Minnesota up by 10 points. Instead, the Falcons scored a touchdown to tie the game and won on a field goal by Morten Andersen in overtime.
What Happened Next: Minnesota
In the immediate aftermath, the Falcons lost to the Broncos in the Super Bowl, 34-19. In the long term, the lingering effect of this loss continues to be felt by Vikings fans. Minnesota still doesn't have a Super Bowl title and hasn't appeared in the Super Bowl since 1976.
It's hard to convey to today's sports fan who didn't experience this moment what gargantuan favorites the Vikings were to win this game. It's actually surprising they were only favored by 11 pointsm but a closer look at the Falcons kind of skewers the argument.
The Vikings went 15-1 in 1998 while the Falcons were 14-2.
14. Nevada: Duke Shocks UNLV in Final Four
When: March 30, 1991
Where: Hoosier Dome (Indianapolis, Indiana)
Team: University of Nevada Las Vegas
Sport: College basketball
Key figures: UNLV forward Larry Johnson, UNLV head coach Jerry Tarkanian, Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski, Duke guard Bobby Hurley, Duke forward Christian Laettner
What happened: Duke pulled off one of the biggest upsets in college history with a 79-77 win over undefeated defending national champion UNLV in the national semifinals.
Bottom Line: Nevada
UNLV beat Duke by 30 points in the 1990 NCAA championship game and was favored by 8.5 points against Duke in the 1991 national semifinals.
UNLV was also on a 45-game winning streak and trying to become the first team to go undefeated for an entire season since Indiana in 1975-76.
Knowing that the rosters for both teams were almost identical to the previous year, Duke pulled off one of the more shocking upsets in NCAA tournament history.
What Happened Next: Nevada
Duke won the first of five national championships with a 71-65 win over Kansas in the national championship game.
UNLV's star player, Larry Johnson, was picked No. 1 overall in the 1991 NBA draft, but the program never again gained the national prominence it had under head coach Jerry Tarkanian.
UNLV was buried under an avalanche of NCAA sanctions at the end of Tarkanian's tenure, and the Rebels have been to just one Sweet 16 since 1991.
13. Kansas: KSU Watches BCS Bid Slip Away
When: Dec. 5, 1998
Where: Trans World Dome (St. Louis, Missouri)
Team: Kansas State University
Sport: College football
Key figures: Kansas State head coach Bill Snyder, Kansas State quarterback Michael Bishop, Texas A&M head coach R.C. Slocum, Texas A&M running back Sirr Parker
What happened: Kansas State was one win — one quarter — away from playing for the national championship when the wheels came off in a Big 12 Championship game loss to Texas A&M.
Bottom Line: Kansas
Kansas State's ascension to the top of the college football ladder represented no less than the greatest turnaround in college football history (maybe all of sports), and 1998 was supposed to be its pinnacle.
The Wildcats were 11-0 headed into the Big 12 championship game and were guaranteed a shot in the first BCS Championship Game with a win. Leading 27-12 going into the fourth quarter, Kansas State saw its lead disappear, and a costly fumble by quarterback Michael Bishop let Texas A&M tie the score 27-27.
Sirr Parker's 9-yard touchdown run in double overtime gave the Aggies a 36-33 win and the biggest win of the R.C. Slocum era.
What Happened Next: Kansas
Kansas State got shipped off to the Alamo Bowl, where it played uninspired in a loss to Purdue and up-and-coming quarterback Drew Brees. Texas A&M lost to Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl — the second of four consecutive bowl losses for Slocum.
Kansas State would get another bitter pill to swallow in 2012. The Wildcats were undefeated with two games left in the regular season, but a loss at Baylor cost them another shot at a national title.
12. Massachusetts: Bill Buckner's Haunting World Series Error
When: Oct. 25, 1986
Where: Shea Stadium (Queens, New York)
Team: Boston Red Sox
Key figures: Boston first baseman Bill Buckner, New York Mets outfielder Mookie Wilson
What happened: Buckner let a slow-rolling ground ball by Wilson go through his legs at first base in the bottom of the 11th in Game 6 of the World Series, allowing the Mets to win the game and tie the series 3-3.
Bottom Line: Massachusetts
Buckner was 0-for-5 in Game 6, so it's not hard to see how those struggles may have impacted his mental state leading up to his error on Wilson's grounder. The Red Sox took a 3-0 lead in Game 7 before the Mets rallied to win the game and the World Series.
The reaction to Buckner's error in Game 6 was intense and immense — both by Red Sox fans and sports fans around the world. Buckner received death threats from those with the false belief that one out would've won the game for the Red Sox.
Buckner bristled at the criticism but didn't blame the fans. Instead, he blamed the media's coverage for his error taking on the levels of infamy it did.
What Happened Next: Massachusetts
Buckner was released by the Red Sox in July 1987 but played four more seasons in the majors. He re-signed with the Red Sox in 1990 and retired later that year after 21 seasons in Major League Baseball.
He returned to his native Idaho and invested heavily in real estate and car dealerships, but did return to Boston to throw out a first pitch in 2007.
Bucker died of Lewy body dementia in 2019, at 69 years old.
11. Maryland: Irsay Moves Colts in Dead of Night
When: March 28-29, 1984
Where: Memorial Stadium (Baltimore, Maryland)
Team: Baltimore Colts
Key figures: Colts owner Robert Irsay, Maryland General Assembly members, Indianapolis Mayor William Hudnut, Baltimore Mayor William Donald Schaefer
What happened: Irsay moved the Colts from Baltimore to Indianapolis in the middle of the night.
Bottom Line: Maryland
Bob Irsay tried for over a decade to get city and state officials to do something about run-down Memorial Stadium — which the Colts shared with the Orioles — but they refused despite their own internal reports deeming the stadium inadequate for one sport, much less two.
Irsay, with the support of NFL owners, began to explore a move to either Phoenix or Indianapolis and was won over by the Hoosier Dome, which was being constructed at the time. As Baltimore city and Maryland state officials began to get information the team was headed out, the Maryland General Assembly moved to take the team from Irsay under an "eminent domain" clause.
Irsay struck first.
What Happened Next: Maryland
Indianapolis Mayor William Hudnut was the one who wooed Irsay to Indy, so when Irsay needed to get out of Baltimore, it was Hudnut who stepped in.
Hudnut called upon his friend and neighbor, John Smith, the CEO of Mayflower Transit, to send 15 moving trucks to Maryland to move the team. They left town in the middle of the night, and all took separate routes to avoid drawing suspicion.
Colts fans awoke on March 29, 1984, to the shocking news the team was gone. Anger and sadness ensued.
10. Ohio: MLB Gives Pete Rose Permanent Ban
When: Aug. 24, 1989
Where: Cincinnati, Ohio
Team: Cincinnati Reds
Key figures: Cincinnati Reds manager Pete Rose, MLB commissioner Bart Giamatti, MLB attorney John M. Dowd
What happened: Rose voluntarily accepted a lifetime ban from MLB after an investigation by Dowd revealed Rose bet on Reds games during his time as manager.
Bottom Line: Ohio
MLB opened an investigation into Pete Rose in February 1989 after reports began to surface that baseball's career hits leader bet on baseball games he managed or played in. Bart Giamatti, who'd just taken over as MLB commissioner, hired John M. Dowd to investigate Rose, and the lawyer came back with evidence that showed Rose bet up to $10,000 per day on MLB games.
Rose denied the allegations from the jump and even took the case to court, but when he was presented with the evidence against him, Rose voluntarily agreed to be put on MLB's permanently ineligible list with the opportunity to apply for reinstatement after one year.
It completed the fall from grace of one of the greatest sporting icons in American history.
What Happened Next: Ohio
Giamatti died of a massive heart attack on Sept. 1, 1989, just eight days after announcing Rose's suspension. Rose applied for reinstatement in 1992 to Giamatti's successor, Fay Vincent, who never responded to the application.
Rose applied for reinstatement to Vincent's successor, Bud Selig, who never responded to the application. In 2015, Rose applied for reinstatement with Selig's successor, Rob Manfred, who rejected the application on the basis that Rose hadn't been forthcoming about his continued gambling on baseball.
At this point, Rose is unlikely to be reinstated to MLB or inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
9. Illinois: 'Black Sox' Fix 1919 World Series
When: Aug. 3, 1921
Where: Chicago, Illinois
Team: Chicago White Sox
Key figures: MLB commissioner Kennesaw "Mountain" Landis, Chicago White Sox outfielder "Shoeless" Joe Jackson, Chicago White Sox first baseman Chick Gandil, Chicago White Sox pitcher Eddie Cicotte, Chicago White Sox center fielder Happy Felsch, Chicago White Sox infielder Fred McMullin, Chicago White Sox shortstop Swede Risberg, Chicago White Sox third baseman Buck Weaver, Chicago White Sox pitcher Lefty Williams
What happened: Landis handed out lifetime bans to eight Chicago White Sox players for their roles in fixing the 1919 World Series.
Bottom Line: Illinois
After eight players for the Chicago White Sox were accused of fixing the 1919 World Series for mafia kingpin Arnold Rothstein, MLB owners gave famed U.S. District Court Judge Kennesaw Mountain Landis complete control over the game to restore its integrity.
One day after all eight White Sox players accused in the conspiracy were acquitted of conspiracy to defraud, Landis banned all of them from baseball for life and set a precedent for punishment in baseball that exists to this day.
What Happened Next: Illinois
Of the eight White Sox players who were banned, two professed their innocence until their deaths — shortstop Buck Weaver and star outfielder "Shoeless" Joe Jackson.
Jackson's banishment is still one of the most controversial decisions in baseball history. He never attended any of the meetings between the players, and gamblers and said he didn't do anything to alter his play.
He also reportedly accepted $5,000 from Rothstein's crew via other players.
8. Texas: NCAA Delivers 'Death Penalty' to SMU
When: Feb. 25, 1987
Where: Dallas, Texas
Team: Southern Methodist University
Sport: College football
Key figures: Former SMU head coach Ron Meyer, SMU head coach Bobby Collins, SMU offensive lineman Sean Stopperich, SMU linebacker David Stanley, WFAA sports director Dale Hansen
What happened: SMU's football team became the only recipient of the NCAA's dreaded "death penalty" punishment — also known as the repeat violator rule.
Bottom Line: Texas
SMU's repeated violations of NCAA rules regarding its football program were well-known by the time WFAA sports director Dale Hansen aired a damning report on the program in 1986.
Hansen's report showed that probation had done little to slow down what was the most egregious of violations — the repeated payment of players via a "slush fund' put together by SMU boosters.
The NCAA handed down the stiffest punishment in history, shutting down the program for two years, placing a strict moratorium on recruiting, putting SMU on probation until 1990, and stripping the program of 55 scholarships over the next four years.
What Happened Next: Texas
The impact of the death penalty devastated the SMU football program and had substantial impacts on the lives of those directly involved.
Most notably, former SMU players/whistleblowers Sean Stopperich and David Stanley both spiraled into drug addiction and died at young ages.
SMU didn't return to a bowl game until 2009, and no football program has received the death penalty since.
7. California: Hank Gathers' Life Cut Tragically Short
When: March 4, 1990
Where: Gersten Pavilion (Los Angeles, California)
Team: Loyola Marymount University
Sport: College basketball
Key figures: Loyola Marymount forward Hank Gathers, Loyola Marymount guard Bo Kimble, Loyola Marymount head coach Paul Westhead
What happened: Gathers collapsed on the court during a West Coast Conference Tournament semifinal game and died hours later.
Bottom Line: California
Hank Gathers previously collapsed during a game and was subsequently diagnosed with an irregular heartbeat and prescribed medication he said hampered his play.
Gathers, a potential NBA lottery pick in the upcoming draft, had his medication lowered the same week of his death on the basis he came in for a scheduled checkup, which he skipped.
After dunking the ball on an alley-oop, Gathers collapsed around halfcourt, just feet away from University of Portland guard and future Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra.
What Happened Next: California
Hank Gathers' best friend and teammate Bo Kimble famously shot free throws left-handed in honor of Gathers in the NCAA tournament and became a lottery pick himself.
Gathers' family settled a lawsuit against Loyola Marymount for $1.4 million and a lawsuit against the cardiologist who treated Gathers for $1.1 million.
6. Wyoming: UW Responds to Justice ... With More Injustice
When: Oct. 17, 1969
Where: Laramie, Wyoming
Team: University of Wyoming
Sport: College football
Key figures: Wyoming head coach Lloyd Eaton, Wyoming football players Earl Lee, John Griffin, Willie Hysaw, Don Meadows, Ivie Moore, Tony Gibson, Jerome Berry, Joe Williams, Mel Hamilton, Jim Issac, Tony McGee, Ted Williams, Lionel Grimes and Ron Hill
What happened: Eaton threw 14 Black players off the team — the "Black 14" — after they asked to wear black armbands during the next day's game against BYU in protest of their treatment during the 1968 game in Provo, Utah.
Bottom Line: Wyoming
In 1968, Wyoming's Black players were subject to racial taunts during a game against BYU in Provo, Utah, and then learned of what they believed were racist practices within the Mormon Church. In a meeting to discuss the possibility of wearing black armbands in the 1969 game against BYU, Eaton threw all 14 Black players at the meeting off the team on the spot.
The response from the people of Wyoming and fans was as shameful as Eaton's. They labeled the players as disrespectful, ungrateful and insubordinate.
Wyoming beat BYU, then San Jose State before losing its last four games and ending a three-year streak of WAC titles.
What Happened Next: Wyoming
Three of the 14 players — John Griffin, Don Meadows and Joe Williams — returned to play for Wyoming in 1970. Tony McGee transferred to Bishop College in Dallas and played 14 seasons in the NFL. Eaton was removed as coach after the Cowboys went 1-9 in 1970, and Wyoming only had one winning season in the next decade.
The university didn't make amends with the players for 50 years, finally inviting them back to campus in 2019, where they were feted with a dinner with university officials, received official letters of apology from the school and were given authentic jerseys and letterman jackets.
5. Georgia: Falcons Make '28-3' Part of Culture
When: Feb. 5, 2017
Where: NRG Stadium (Houston, Texas)
Team: Atlanta Falcons
Key figures: The Atlanta Falcons' entire coaching staff and roster
What happened: The New England Patriots rallied from a 28-3 second-half deficit to defeat the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI.
Bottom Line: Georgia
No loss has stung more in the history of Georgia — maybe the NFL — than when the Falcons blew a 25-point lead late in the second half against the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LI.
It ended up being one of those "Where were you?" moments as an estimated television audience of 172 million watched the Patriots score 34 unanswered points and win in overtime.
It was the first time in NFL postseason history that a team blew a 17-point lead heading into the fourth quarter. The Falcons' odds of winning late in the third quarter were estimated at 99.8 percent.
What Happened Next: Georgia
The Patriots' win over the Falcons quickly entered into the race for the greatest Super Bowl of all time.
But the fallout for the Falcons was much more considerable as "28-3" became part of the national sports lexicon.
The Falcons are 24-24 in the regular season since blowing their Super Bowl lead, and they missed the playoffs in 2018 and 2019.
4. Oregon: Blazers Pass on Michael Jordan in 1984 Draft
When: June 19, 1984
Where: Felt Forum (New York City, New York)
Team: Portland Trail Blazers
Key figures: North Carolina guard Michael Jordan, Kentucky center Sam Bowie, Portland head coach Jack Ramsay, Portland general manager Stu Inman
What happened: The Trail Blazers passed on Jordan at No. 2 overall to take Bowie, an oft-injured center from Kentucky.
Bottom Line: Oregon
The Portland Trail Blazers made perhaps the most infamous draft gaffe in sports history when they passed on Michael Jordan, a junior guard out of North Carolina who would go on to become the greatest basketball player of all time.
The argument Blazers fans make is they already had a shooting guard in Clyde Drexler, but common sense tells us that argument doesn't hold much weight. Ignoring what they saw before their eyes, the Blazers remained dead set on picking a center because they'd been missing a dominant post player since the days of Bill Walton.
And Sam Bowie was their guy.
What Happened Next: Oregon
The most direct example of the Blazers' mistake came in the 1992 NBA Finals, when Jordan absolutely dismantled Drexler in leading the Bulls to their second straight NBA title.
Bowie's career was defined by injuries. In 10 seasons, he played less than 30 games four times and missed the entire 1987-88 season.
3. Pennsylvania: Scandal Costs Paterno His Job
When: Nov. 9, 2011
Where: Happy Valley, Pennsylvania
Team: Penn State University
Sport: College football
Key figures: Penn State head coach Joe Paterno, former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky, Penn State assistant coach Mike McQueary, Penn State athletic director Tim Curley, Penn State vice president Gary Schultz
What happened: Penn State head coach Joe Paterno, the winningest college football coach of all time, was fired for his assumed role in the cover-up surrounding the arrest of former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky on child sex abuse charges.
Bottom Line: Pennsylvania
Paterno did the best job of summing up what the effect of the scandal and the firing had on his reputation: "My name ... I have spent my whole life trying to make that name mean something. And now it's gone."
Sandusky's crimes left no one who had any knowledge of them unscathed. Paterno reported what he knew to his direct supervisors after an incident between Sandusky and a boy was witnessed by one of his assistants in the Penn State locker room.
The Penn State board determined that Paterno didn't do enough to protect the children Sandusky was abusing, even though he'd done what he'd been obligated to by reporting it to his superiors.
What Happened Next: Pennsylvania
Paterno died 74 days after he was fired and the NCAA stripped him of 111 wins, which was eventually put back on his record after a lawsuit filed by the Paterno family against the NCAA.
Sandusky was sentenced to up to 60 years in prison for his crimes. Penn State president Graham Spanier, athletic director Tim Curley and vice president Gary Schultz were all dismissed and criminally charged with perjury, obstruction of justice, failure to report suspected child abuse, and other related charges.
2. North Carolina: Rush to Judgment in Lacrosse Scandal
When: March 13, 2006
Where: Durham, North Carolina
Team: Duke University
Key figures: Duke lacrosse players David Evans, Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligman; Durham County district attorney Mike Nifong, North Carolina attorney general Roy Cooper
What happened: Three members of the Duke lacrosse team were accused of rape by a stripper who'd been hired to work a party at a house rented by some of the players.
Bottom Line: North Carolina
David Evans, Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligman were charged with first-degree rape in Durham County and were vilified in the press — in large part thanks to Mike Nifong — without much evidence to their guilt.
Duke canceled the lacrosse team's season and fired head coach Mike Pressler when he wouldn't disown the accused players.
The accuser's story quickly fell apart. She reportedly told up to a half-dozen different stories of what happened, and when it was revealed that Nifong had hidden DNA testing results that cleared the three players, all of the charges were dropped.
What Happened Next: North Carolina
Nifong became the first attorney in North Carolina to be disbarred for misconduct in trial and served one day in jail for contempt of court.
Duke settled with the three accused players for a reported $20 million each and also settled with Pressler out of court.
The accuser was convicted of second-degree murder in 2013 and sentenced to 14-18 years in prison.
1. Florida: Tragedy on Final Lap at Daytona 500
When: Feb. 18, 2001
Where: Daytona International Speedway (Daytona, Florida)
Team: Richard Childress Racing
Sport: Auto racing
Key figures: Dale Earnhardt Sr., Sterling Marlin, Ken Schrader
What happened: Earnhardt Sr. died instantly after a final-lap collision with Marlin and Schrader at the Daytona 500.
Bottom Line: Florida
Dale Earnhardt, arguably the most famous racer in history, made contact with Sterling Marlin on the final lap of the Daytona 500 and careened into Ken Schrader's path before Earnhardt's car slammed headfirst into the retaining wall at approximately 160 miles per hour.
Earnhardt's and Schrader's cars slid into the infield, Schrader went to check on Earnhardt and began to frantically signal for paramedics. Later, he admitted it was obvious Earnhardt was already dead.
Earnhardt was taken to a local hospital and pronounced dead at 49 years old.
What Happened Next: Florida
Earnhardt Sr.''s death, dubbed "Black Sunday" in the media, generated a massive outpouring of sympathy from around the world and death threats directed toward Marlin, who was absolved of any guilt by Earnhardt Sr.'s son, Dale Earnhardt Jr.
The death was ruled to be a result of Earnhardt Sr. not having his head and neck properly secured in the car, which led to massive safety changes throughout NASCAR.
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