Now that weâ€™re here at the end of the year, I couldnâ€™t help but think back and realize what an amazing and unpredictable nine months itâ€™s been in the CSU sports world.
Coaches came and went, it was a year of first times and the end of a decade long drought.
After careful consideration, I came up with my top moment, athletes, team and surprise of the 2011-12 athletic season.
This was by far the toughest decision to make, but two front runners stood out above the rest.
CSU menâ€™s basketball accomplished a tremendous amount in 2011-12 and it was hard not to choose Tim Milesâ€™ final team as the best of the year. On the other hand, our volleyball team continued its incredible stretch of 14 consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances, a model of excellence and consistency.
In the end, Tom Hilbertâ€™s leadership and year-in-year-out success gave volleyball the edge. The Rams put forth an impressive 25-6 record, including a home victory over then No. 5 Nebraska and an NCAA Tournament victory against No. 13 Oregon.
The basketball teamâ€™s accomplishment was great, but a little surprising. Volleyball is the model all other CSU programs should seek to emulate.
Best Male Athlete
When I started thinking about the best male athlete performance of the year the victor seemed obvious.
Junior guard Wes Eikmeier brought veteran leadership and play on the court to help the Rams reach the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2003. Eikmeier ranked fourth in the Mountain West in scoring at 15.5 points per game, first in free throw percentage and seventh in field goal percentage.
He often stepped up big when the Rams needed him most and provided a consistent scoring presence with the departure of the teamâ€™s leading scorer the previous year in Andy Ogide.
With a solid all around game and picture perfect jump shot, I expect Eikmeier to continue his role as team leader for an NCAA Tournament capable team in 2012-13.
Best Female Athlete
Senior Katelyn Steffan ran away from the competition putting together one of the most impressive seasons in the history of CSU volleyball.
Steffan was named an AVCA All-American, just the ninth player from CSU to earn the honor. She also garnered MW Player of the Year, MW Volleyball Championship MVP and Colorado Sports Hall of Fame College Female Athlete of the Year.
She ranked second in kills and points per game in the conference and was instrumental to guiding a young team to another NCAA Tournament appearance and win.
Steffanâ€™s talent and skill was evident in every game she played and killed volleyballs with more ferocity than any other person Iâ€™ve ever seen.
There were so many amazing moments in 2011-12, I simply couldnâ€™t limit it to one, so I took an out and picked three as a unit.
It came to be known as Moby Madness and the atmosphere created memories Iâ€™ll never forget. San Diego State, New Mexico and UNLV all fell in turn to the madness resulting in the most exciting basketball season at CSU in, well—ever.
Three wins over top-20 teams at Moby had never been accomplished before and each win was critical to the menâ€™s basketball team earning a berth into the NCAA Tournament as an at-large bid.
The crowds were loud, raucous and will forever be remembered as having an affinity for rushing the court.
In early December Tony Frank and the athletic department made a drastic change in the leadership when Frank removed Paul Kowalczyk as Director of Athletics and replaced him with Jack Graham.
The move was unexpected by everyone other than Frank and Graham and the reverberations were felt throughout the remainder of the year. Grahamâ€™s hiring saw the departure of football coach Steve Fairchild and the hiring of Alabama offensive coordinator Jim McElwain.
Graham was also charged with replacing Tim Miles, who left for the job at Nebraska, but most importantly presented the idea for a new on-campus stadium at CSU.
For better or worse, Kowalczykâ€™s removal brought a wave of change within the athletic department and ushered in a â€œbold new era.â€
Sports Editor Cris Tiller can be reached at email@example.com.