It was college sports that marked the best of the year in 2005 sports. College football produced a great national championship game and a comeback year for one of the sport’s legendary coaches. College basketball provided an extraordinary weekend of regional final coverage and very good national championship battle of their own.
USC and Texas opened the football season ranked 1-2 in the country. They ended the season the same way. Then they played a Rose Bowl game that went down to the final eight seconds before the Longhorns pulled out an upset win and a national title.
In the NCAA Tournament, three of the four regional finals went to overtime, and the one exception still went down to the end. It was The Greatest Eight Ever. The consensus best two teams in the country, North Carolina and Illinois, played on Monday night for a championship and the Tar Heels won a good game.
Penn State football was seen in an irreversible decline over the five seasons preceding 2005—or at least irreversible without a coaching change. Joe Paterno brought the Nittany Lion program back to prominence, as they lost just one game, won the Orange Bowl and finished third in the nation.
Read more about the 2005 USC-Texas Rose Bowl
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Read more about 2005 Penn State football
Baseball season provided a number of great storylines and they begin with an excellent team and a great pitching staff in the Chicago White Sox. They won 99 games, relied on old-fashioned workhorses in the starting rotation and won their first World Series title since 1917.
The National League Championship Series, between the St. Louis Cardinals and Houston Astros was a rematch of 2004 and provided one magical home run—from the team that lost no less—and one dominant starting pitcher that answered the magic. The Astros won the first pennant in franchise history.
And the American League East had a bizarre finish. The New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox ran to the stretch to a season-ending series at Fenway Park, one game separating the two and the wild-card not assured. Then the Cleveland Indians, the third wheel in the wild-card race, fell apart the last three games. The Yankees clinched a division on Saturday via a tiebreaker only a few were aware could happen. The Red Sox clinched the wild-card one day later. Instead of a showdown, both teams poured champagne.
Since this writer is a partisan Boston fan, it’s the Red Sox who get the special feature here—also because, by overcoming an injury to Curt Schilling, to closer Keith Foulke, and the free agency loss of Pedro Martinez, they still managed to tie the Yankees at 95-67. In either case, both teams lost in the first round of the playoffs.
Read more about the 2005 Chicago White Sox
Read more about the 2005 NLCS
Read more about the 2005 Boston Red Sox
The NFL had never seen a team seed #6 in the playoffs—a spot that required three road wins to reach the Super Bowl—come through to win it all. The Pittsburgh Steelers, with retiring running back Jerome Bettis spurred on by the thought of playing his final game in his hometown, at the Super Bowl in Detroit, became the first.
Read more about the 2005 Pittsburgh Steelers
The San Antonio Spurs had won championships in 1999 and 2003, and with it being an odd-numbered year, it must have meant the Spurs’ number was up. They faced off with the defending champion Detroit Pistons in an NBA Finals that went the full seven games, but it was Tim Duncan and the Spurs that ended up pouring champagne, for the third time in seven years.
Read more about the 2005 San Antonio Spurs
And hockey? Well, hockey chose to forgo its 2005 season, as Commissioner Gary Bettman orchestrated a lockout that canceled the season in its entirety. Bettman established himself as the worst commissioner ever to oversee a pro sports league in the United States.