EDITORIAL: Board reflects on a year to remember in ISU sports

Editorial Board

With another school year all but in the books, the time has come for some reflection on the year that was. In this case, 2011-12 was no ordinary year for ISU sports.

Across the board, it was one of the most successful years for Cyclone sports, perhaps ever.

Volleyball reached the Elite Eight in the NCAA Tournament. Football saw two major upsets — more on that in a moment — and its second bowl berth in three years.

The women’s cross country team won the Big 12 title. Betsy Saina was a national champion in the women’s indoor 5K. Both men’s and women’s basketball reached the NCAA Tournament — the men for the first time since 2005, and the women for the sixth straight season, after starting Big 12 play 0-5.

Royce White garnered national attention for his play against defending national champions Connecticut and eventual national champions Kentucky, then vaulted himself into NBA Draft discussion by turning pro.

Former Cyclone Jake Varner qualified for the 2012 Olympics, joining the U.S. freestyle wrestling team after qualifying Saturday at the Olympic trials in Iowa City.

For ISU fans, this was one hell of a year to be a Cyclone. But the biggest story of all this season?

It has to be the football team’s upset of No. 2 Oklahoma State on Nov. 18.

Think about all of the things we listed above. Volleyball has had NCAA Tournament teams for several years, and while White and the ISU men were a big story — especially with a win against Kansas on the books this year — it wasn’t a huge surprise for them to have some success.

But who saw a win against one of the best teams in the nation coming? No one with an objective opinion of ISU football.

All four members of this board were at the game that evening, and we all recalled watching in sheer disbelief. It didn’t seem real.

The stage it was on plays a huge factor as well. As Jeff Woody said it then:

“Senior night, Friday night, ESPN, only show in town, never beat a top-five team in Iowa State’s history,” Woody said. “All those factors combined together just combines them [into] the perfect storm of finding a way to win and prove that we are a good team once again.”

The win was the biggest upset in ISU history, bar none. It had viewers across the country rooting for the underdog Cyclones to ruin what would have been a perfect season for the Cowboys.

At no other point this season — which, as we pointed out, was full of achievements for ISU athletics — was a Cyclone sport on the national stage like that.

There’s debate on the greatest athletes at Iowa State, but there’s no debate this was the greatest upset in program history.

Years from now, ISU fans will look back on that moment as a cornerstone of the program and of ISU sports.

The “signature upsets” that have become a regularity under coach Paul Rhoads got its crown jewel that Friday night in November.