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December 31, 2012Follow @AHaley_Rivals
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Twas' the Fifth Day of January in the Year of our Lord two thousand and twelve, the official start of a crazy year for the Western Kentucky athletic department. A debacle over the number of players allowed on the court would be the start to a special year here in Bowling Green. The year of 2012 would take Hilltoppers fans on a roller coaster ride of emotions where, at some points, admittance was nearly free.
This has been my most memorable year as a WKU fan to say the least. I've seen hirings, firings, departures, and arrivals. Interim coaches promoted and long-time coaches cut loose. It's not often that an athletic department has the success that WKU has had in just 365 days.
Let's take a look at the year that put WKU athletics back on track.
• Jan. 5th- The Western Kentucky men's basketball team played host to Louisiana-Lafayette. The Tops, led by Ken MacDonald, came into the game with a 5-10 record. In the final seconds of the contest the infamous "six players on the court" took place. The Ragin' Cajuns defeated WKU that night 72-70.
• Jan. 6th- After giving Ken MacDonald a contract extension less than a year prior, WKU Athletic Director Ross Bjork decided it was time to pull the plug on the K-Mac 2.0 experiment. Assistant coach, Ray Harper, would serve as interim head coach.
• Feb. 20th- After six weeks of "Harpermania", Interim head coach Ray Harper, was introduced as the new coach for the WKU basketball program. A crowd of 1,100 people assembled in Diddle arena that night to see Harper take the podium.
"I don't have a five-year plan. I don't have a three-year plan," Harper said. "I have a now plan, and that plan is to win."
• Feb. 21st- TopperTalk.com was introduced to the world. A lousy WKU sports blog made mostly to get media passes for my favorite place in the world, Hot Springs, AR. As WKU sports took off, we rode right along with it, covering as much as we could from the stands. Topper Talk would eventually grow into something much bigger and eventually led into the opportunity to cover WKU for Rivals.com.
• Feb. 25th- Ray Harpers leads WKU past rival MTSU in Diddle Arena in front of a sold-out crowd. After the 73-67 victory, Harper grabbed a microphone and addressed Diddle Arena, adding fuel to the "Harpermania" fire. "We've only just begun," Harper said after notching his first victory as head coach.
• March 5th- WKU defeats Denver 67-63 in the semi-finals of the Sun Belt tournament. The Tops entered the tournament as the No. 7 seed with an 11-18 record.
• March 6th- WKU clawed back from a 13 point second half deficit to defeat the North Texas Mean Green and win the Sun Belt Championship.
• March 8th- After ten seasons at the helm for the Lady Toppers, Mary Taylor Cowels was fired by Western Kentucky athletic director Ross Bjork. During her tenure at WKU, Cowles compiled a 199-119 record.
• March 13th- WKU set a NCAA tournament record by overcoming an 18 point deficit in the last five minutes of their first round match with Mississippi Valley State. The Tops played in front of Barack Obama and the British Prime minister in Dayton, OH. This also goes down as maybe the most excited I have ever been in my life.
• March 15th- WKU loses to the eventual national champion Kentucky Wildcats. What a run it was for Ray Harper and his boys.
• March 21st- Ross Bjork accepts the athletic director position at the University of Mississippi. At 39, Bjork is the youngest AD in the FBS. Among some of his greater accomplishments, Ross scolded Cole Claybourn for being too honest and blocked myself on Twitter. Bjork accomplished a lot of things while at WKU but his "Christian Grey" control-freak attitude left a sour taste in the mouths of many WKU media members and office personnel.
• March 22nd- My favorite WKU personality took over at the helm of the athletic department on an interim basis. Move over Anderson Cooper, there is a new silver fox in town.
• April 2nd- Judging by the excitement on campus, Western Kentucky has won their first national basketball championship!! Oh wait, they were wearing blue.
• May 9th- Gary Ransdell made his best decision at WKU by naming Todd Stewart the athletic director for Western Kentucky University.
• June, July, August- It was really hot.
• September 1st- The WKU football team kicked off the season with a 49-10 victory over Austin Peay.
• September 15th- Big Red took over the streets of Lexington. WKU defeated the Wildcats on a two-point conversion called by Willie Taggart for a 32-31 win. The halfback pass back to the quarterback grabbed the attention of the nation and was a Sports Center top play. This was also the game when Joker Phillips realized he was going to be fired.
• October 11th- WKU defeats Troy to start the season at 5-1. A 10-2 record was looking very promising at this point.
• October 20th- WKU falls at home in front of a record crowd to Louisiana-Monroe. In my opinion, this was the turning point for the football team.
• Nov. 10th- "Harpermania" starts up again! WKU came up short to Southern Miss. in their first game of the season.
• Nov. 17th- The WKU volleyball team defeats North Texas to claim another SBC championship. The Lady Tops finished the season with just 3 losses and sitting at #17 in the country.
• Nov. 24- After a tough stretch of games, WKU defeats North Texas for their seventh win of the season.
• Dec. 1st- The Volleyball team was knocked out of the NCAA tournament in the second round by the #2 Stanford Cardinals.
• Dec. 2nd- After a week of worry the Hilltoppers were invited to participate in their first bowl game ever. The Little Caesars Pizza Bowl chose WKU (7-5) over Sun Belt rival MTSU (8-4) as Central Michigan's opponent. Although MTSU beat us during the season, being selected over them was sweet revenge.
• Dec. 3rd- According to Wikipedia, Willie Taggart will accept the job at USF and will be replaced by former Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino. After I broke this news to the world on Wikipedia it was quickly removed. When I put it back on there it was removed again. Haters gonna hate, y'all.
• Dec. 7th- Willie Taggart accepts job as the South Florida's head football coach. Taggart gave WKU three good seasons, taking them out of ESPN's Bottom 10 and placing them on the small Sun Belt map.
• Dec. 8th- The basketball Tops improved to 8-2 on the season and extended their home winning streak to 10 games.
• Dec. 10th- The happiest day of my life. After a few days of quietly lobbying for WKU to hire Bobby Petrino, Todd Stewart came through in the clutch. I think I described the move on Twitter by saying Todd Stewart took out a machete and stabbed it through the jugular of the Sun Belt. What a big time move for Western Kentucky University.
• Dec. 10th-14th- WKU has received more national media attention in four days than they have in the last 20 years combined. Both Stewart and Petrino appeared on national radio and televisions shows to talk about Petrino's landing at WKU.
• Dec. 21st- The Lady Tops improve their record to 11-2 with a 71-57 victory over Florida A&M, winning the Wright State tournament.
• Dec. 26th- Thousand of Hilltopper fans descended upon Ford Field to watch WKU's first bowl game. The Tops would lose on a 4th and 2 play call after Jakes pass to Doyle went a little wide.
• Dec. 27th- A day removed from
football, Kawaun Jakes and Marcus Vasquez suit up for Ray Harper. Both players played a minute in WKU's win over Florida International.
• Dec. 29th- WKU defeats North Texas 70-64 to finish off 2012 strong and extend their home winning streak to 12 games.
I think there is much to look forward to in 2013. Look at your head coaches- Harper, Michelle Clark-Heard, Travis Hudson, and Petrino- all of these coaches are winners. We have the most talented football team we have ever had on the Hill and by the time Hot Springs rolls around, our basketball team will be the deepest in the conference. Our coaches have assembled great staffs and they are all looking up to one man, Todd Stewart.
It's good to be on top.
Get use to winning at Western Kentucky.
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