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Penn State football headlines Pa. year in sports

Published on NewsOK Modified: December 24, 2012 at 12:40 pm •  Published: December 24, 2012

NHL hockey is a distant memory with the 2012 season on lockout hold. No chance for the Flyers to see if they can build on the 103-point campaign in 2011-12 that resulted in a fifth-place finish in the Eastern Conference.

They did get to claim in-state bragging rights, at least, after a first-round playoff win over the odds-on Stanley Cup favorite Penguins.

Instead of worrying about the power play, Penguins star Sidney Crosby is simply worried about just playing. The 2007 MVP, limited to just 28 games since January 2011 because concussions, is now healthy and thinking about skating in Europe with the labor dispute still shutting down the NHL.

"I just want to play hockey," Crosby told reporters after an informal workout with some of his teammates this month.

On the hardwood, the Philadelphia 76ers had a successful 2011-12 season with their first winning record in seven seasons. They also took a playoff series for the first time since 2003 by knocking off the top-seeded Chicago Bulls, raising hopes for the future.

The Sixers then traded for 7-foot center Andrew Bynum in a multi-team deal that sent All-Star forward Andre Iguodala to Denver. But Bynum has yet to suit up in Philly because of injuries to each of his knees.

In college basketball, Big East powers Villanova and Pittsburgh each had disappointing seasons to snuff out long streaks of NCAA tournament appearances. Temple did make the NCAAs for a fifth straight year but fell to 12th-seeded South Florida in the second round.

No, this year's NCAA darlings resided in Bethlehem, where 15th-seed Lehigh beat second-seeded Duke in a second-round stunner. The win made the Mountain Hawks the new standard-bearers for upsets in the brainy Patriot League, pushing aside in-state rival Bucknell's takedown of Kansas as a No. 14 seed in the 2005 tournament.

In women's basketball, Penn State returned to Big Ten prominence after winning the regular-season league title for the first time since 2004. The Lady Lions are a mainstay in the Top 25 once again under coach Coquese Washington.

Penn State's also building a dynasty on the wrestling mat, where head coach and Olympic gold medalist Cael Sanderson led the Nittany Lions to a second consecutive national title in March.

At the race track, Jeff Gordon and Joey Logano each won a NASCAR race at Pocono — but the northeastern Pennsylvania tri-oval made just as much news away from the pits.

Joseph Mattioli, the founder and chairman of Pocono Raceway, died in January at age 86 following a lengthy illness. One fan died and nine others were hurt by lightning strikes in the raceway parking lot after the August race won by Gordon.

In November, IndyCar announced it was returning to Pocono in 2013 following a 23-year absence.

Back on the football field, Steve Addazio followed up his 9-4 season in his first year as Temple's coach in 2011 with a 4-7 record — then bolted for Boston College. Not even the Owls' move back to the Big East could keep Addazio from taking a job with an Atlantic Coast Conference school.

Like Addazio, Pitt is also leaving the Big East for the ACC next season. And it appears that first-year coach Paul Chryst, a former Wisconsin assistant, will shepherd the Panthers into its new league after Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez signaled this month that he wouldn't pursue Chryst for the Badgers coaching job.

Chryst has also said he's committed to Pitt. The Panthers finished 2012 at 6-6 and received a bid to play in the BBVA Compass Bowl a third straight year, this time against Mississippi.

A bowl game is something that Penn State can't attain for another three years. Challenges surely remain, too, with scholarship cuts seemingly forcing O'Brien to rely more on walk-ons to fill depth.

But on the field, at least, O'Brien seems to have restored order to a program during a remarkable season of change.


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AP Sports Writer Steven Wine in Miami contributed to this report.