Not all was happiness and accolades for Arizona sports fans. While there have been breakout players, great games and teams, fans of our local teams have become accustomed to disappointment. This year is no exception. Continuing with our end of the year awards, we now recognize the biggest disappointment of 2011 in Arizona sports.
The Winner: The 2011 Arizona State Football Team
2011 was supposed to be a magical year for the Sun Devils. Returning a ton of key players, combined with a weak Pac-12 South division and a USC team that would be ineligible for posteason play, Arizona State was expected to be a part of the first Pac-12 Championship Game.
Injuries and loss ravaged the team even before the season started. Quarterback Steven Threet retired because of a concussion that he never fully recovered from, senior CB Omar Bolden blew out his knee. Defensive lineman James Brooks left the team. Brandon Magee, less touted than Vontaze Burfict, but considered by many to be a better player, was lost for the season. Receiver T.J. Simpson got hurt and never played. Running back Deantre Lewis, who was an impact player as a freshman, was shot in the leg in the offseason.
Even still, there were high expectations and they played the part. They won a thriller in overtime against Missouri, they crushed USC and ran toe-to-toe with Oregon. At 6-2, it looked like they would run away with the South Division. They would not win again. They lost at UCLA, were embarrassed by a bad Washington State team, then lost to Arizona and California. They went from a possible Rose Bowl berth to the Vegas Bowl, where they were destroyed 56-24 by Boise State.
The collapse led to the firing of Dennis Erickson, which led to a disappointing chain of events that led to the hiring of Todd Graham.
From BCS bowl hopes to national embarrassment -- that sums up Arizona State's 2011 in a few words, and is the reason why they are the biggest Arizona sports disappointment of 2011.
Honorable Mention: Kevin Kolb, Todd Graham, Arizona Cardinals
Kevin Kolb was the victim of unreasonable expectations. In what was supposed to be a bad NFC West, Kolb was supposed to be the player to bring the Cardinals back to the playoffs. The lockout, a terrible first half of the season by the team's defense and injuries that took half the season away have led people to view the trade the team made to acquire him as the biggest bust of the season.
Graham is a victim of circumstance. He was never supposed to be ASU's coach. After Kevin Sumlin said that ASU wasn't good enough and the university oddly spurned June Jones, Graham became the guy in a surprise move. Nothing he did was disappointing -- it is just that his hiring was when so much more was expected.
The Cardinals made a ton of offseason moves and had a relatively light schedule. They started 1-6 and became one of the worst teams in the league, despite many expectations that they would return to the top of the division. They finished strongly, but the terrible start was one of the more deflating things that could have happened.
Next up in our awards is the 2011 Play of the Year