Do you ever stop to think about what the sports fans in your state will be talking about one year, five years, or even 10 years down the road? At any moment while watching the big game, a spectator might be in the middle of history in the making—or, at the least, an event that captures national headlines and hearts.
With so many teams and players from the NCAA to professionals in the United States, it may be hard to keep everything straight. Even the most avid sports followers—conscious of every score of every game—may not be aware of something as obscure as dog sled racing, for example. Whether you’re from a large state with several professional teams or a smaller state where little league is king, pride in your state’s sports is inherently, well, American.
Stacker rounded up some of the greatest moments for sports in all 50 states from 2019 so far: From overcoming impossible odds to shocking trades that took even the players by surprise, to an unforgettable, once-in-a-lifetime moment for a small-town.
Friendly rivalries, family traditions, and die-hard fandoms all provoke and excite memories that last lifetimes; regardless of the winners, that’s hard to beat. When entire neighborhoods, states, and even countries are brought together through the struggle and triumph of sporting events, everyone wins.
From the college football to NASCAR and everything in between, see how your state made headlines in the world of sports during 2019. As all sports fans know, it doesn’t get any better than a live event, and reliving great moments can sometimes be just as exhilarating as watching them in person.
Here’s a look at some of the more memorable major sports headlines of 2019 from every state.
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After a 77-71 win in overtime against the Kentucky Wildcats in April, the Auburn Tigers clinched the Midwest Region title in the Elite Eight. The historic win made Auburn the first team from the state of Alabama to reach the Final Four of the NCAA.
While there aren’t any professional sports teams hailing from Alaska, the 49th state is still known for cold-weather sports like hunting, fishing, and sled dog racing. In mid-October, Alaska’s famous Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race announced a new global partnership aimed at bringing more fans to the sport. The QRILL Pet Arctic World Series, or “QPAWS,” will have its inaugural event in 2020 and promises to become the World Series of long-distance sled dog racing.
A baseball game going into extra innings is always exciting, but in September the Arizona Diamondbacks and the St. Louis Cardinals got way more than they bargained for at Chase Field. The game lasted a whopping 19 innings for a total of 6 hours and 53 minutes, beating the record for the longest game in the history of the stadium—by both innings and time.
Every University of Arkansas fan remembers coach Bobby Petrino’s dramatic firing in 2012, and in September, he made headlines again when he publicly apologized for the scandal that led to his termination. The apology came at a fragile time for Arkansas fans, who have had to watch their team sink lower and lower in the rankings since coach Petrino’s departure, hitting an all-time low when the Razorbacks lost at home to San Jose State, a team who had previously won only two FBS matchups since the beginning of 2017.
Colorado’s House of Representatives passed a bill to legalize sports gambling in the state in April 2019, and Colorado citizens narrowly voted to approve it in November. In a 50.8% to 49.2% lead with 90% of the votes in, this made Colorado the 19th state in the country to legalize sports betting.
In June 2019, the University of Connecticut officially announced its move from the American Athletic Conference to the Big East Conference for 2020–21. But the real kicker came when it was revealed that the move wouldn’t include football, meaning the team could be forced to play as an independent if it couldn’t find a way into another conference. UConn football fans were scrambling to ensure that football would not be eliminated from the school completely, especially given the massive popularity of college sports in the state.
The most exciting game in Delaware sports occurred in September, when the Delaware Blue Hens went into triple overtime against Rhode Island. Career and school records were broken, with a thrilling fourth-down interception sealing the deal for the program’s historic 700th win.
A big win in Daytona by a Florida native is exciting enough in itself, but Denny Hamlin’s win in February was extra emotional due to the death of J. D. Gibbs a month prior; Gibbs first discovered Hamlin, who dedicated the win to the man who made his career possible.
Seeing as the state doesn’t have professional sports teams, Hawaii residents were thrilled to learn that the Rams and Cowboys would be playing a preseason game at Aloha Stadium in 2019. Even though the site had previously been home to the Pro Bowl almost every year between 1980 and 2016, it was the first NFL exhibition game at the arena since 1976.
Both the Boise State quarterback and kicker were recognized nationally for their performances in the 2019 season-opening 36-31 win at Florida State. Quarterback Hank Bachmeier made history as the first true freshman to start a Boise State season opener since the team entered the FBS in 1996, and kicker Eric Sachse kicked a perfect game and tied the single-game record for field goals (five).
Brigid Kosgei made history at the Chicago Marathon in October when she broke the record for fastest finishing time by 81 seconds. The previous record, held by Paula Radcliffe, had stood since 2003.
In a story that shocked the entire NFL football community, Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck made an announcement during the preseason that he wouldn’t be playing in 2019, but would instead be retiring. Luck was the #1 pick in the 2012 NFL draft, named to four Pro Bowls, and won the AP Comeback Player of the Year in 2018 after missing the 2017 season due to a shoulder injury.
In late August, the Kansas State football team won its first game by 35 points, but that wasn’t even the most exciting part of the game. The Wildcats secured 361 rushing yards, the most in a K-State opener since 1981.
In May, spectators at the Kentucky Derby watched history in the making when Maximum Security was disqualified, securing the win for 65-to-1 odds Country House. While it wasn’t the first disqualification the Derby has seen, it was the first time one has happened because of a foul claim during the race. It is safe to say that the dramatic decision was the most controversial in the history of the Kentucky Derby.
The 2019 NFC Championship Game ended in controversy after non-call on defensive pass interference led in part to the Los Angeles Rams beating the New Orleans Saints 26-23 and advancing to the Super Bowl. By the next day, over 500,000 fans had signed an online petition calling for a rematch from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.
In September, University of Maine football player Earnest Edwards recorded a school-record sixth career kickoff return touchdown. He took back two—100 and 95 yards—for touchdowns in a win over Colgate.
In the season opener against the Miami Dolphins, Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson became the first quarterback in team history to post a perfect passer rating. Jackson threw five TDs and no interceptions in only 20 pass attempts and helped the Ravens beat the Dolphins 59-10.
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In 2019 the New England Patriots had previously won five titles since the beginning of the Tom Brady/Bill Belichick dynasty, and at Super Bowl LIII, they won their sixth. In a nail-biter between the Rams where neither team seemed to be able to maintain offensive drives, the Patriots finally pulled away and scored the go-ahead touchdown with seven minutes left for a 13-3 win.
Former NFL coach Jim Harbaugh was already on thin ice in the 2019 college football season, so it was a relief when the team appeared to bounce back in November. In addition to an important 45-14 blowout of the eighth-ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish, the Wolverines also earned a 38-7 road victory over the Maryland Terrapins for a two-game winning streak.
Vikings fans were elated to hear that Dalvin Cook was coming back fully healthy after he tore his ACL in 2017 and injured his hamstring on the same leg in 2018. The Vikings selected Cook in the second round of the 2017 draft, presumably to replace alum Adrian Peterson.
The Mississippi State Bulldogs football team was on a four-game losing streak when it turned it all around on the Arkansas Razorbacks in November. To the fans’ relief, Kylin Hill ran for a career-high 234 yards with three touchdowns, and the school recorded a season-high 640 yards of total offense to beat Arkansas 54-24.
In 2019, Montana had the honor of playing at the NCAA tournament for the 12th time in the program's history—and the fifth time in the last decade. The major headline was that the team would be matched up against familiar opponents, the University of Michigan Wolverines, the same team that sent them home the year before during the first round. Michigan defeated Montana the second time, 74-55.
The Nebraska local ticket-purchasing site offered to issue refunds to fans who bought tickets to games throughout the season if the team wins the conference championship in December. At 4-5, however, this is looking less and less likely.
Vegas Golden Knights hockey fans breathed a sigh of relief when William Karlsson, a fan favorite and the franchise’s all-time leading goal scorer, settled on a deal for an eight-year contract in June. Karlsson could have become a restricted free agent but decided on a $5.9 million per-year deal instead.
The July Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 NASCAR race provided a sobering reality for racing fans. Even though the race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway came down to an exciting last-lap victory by 0.21 seconds, there were reportedly a low number of fans in attendance to see it live. This drop in attendance made headlines as fans took to social media to address the situation and reminisce about the 1990s and early 2000s when seats were filled to capacity.
In May 2019, about a year after sports betting became legal in the state, New Jersey became the first state in the country to have more money legally bet on sports than Nevada. By November 2019, New Jersey had taken in more bets than Nevada in three out of the previous four months.
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The women's track and field team at the University of New Mexico had won two individual NCAA Championships over a three-year stretch when it went to the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track and Field Championships in 2019. Although Arkansas took the title, New Mexico collected 27 points and placed in the top 10, impressively the highest finish by a non-Power Five school.
After Naomi Osaka won the U.S. Open in September 2018, defeating 23-time champion Serena Williams, the world of tennis was looking to her for another victory in 2019. Despite being the top-seeded contender in 2019, Osaka lost to No. 13 Belinda Bencic of Switzerland.
Carolina Panthers fans were anxious when their star quarterback, Cam Newton, was benched for a foot injury. Backup Kyle Allen luckily came through and earned the Panthers their first win of the season. In his second career start, Allen secured a passer rating of 144.4, the highest by a Panthers quarterback since Newton's 153.3 rating in a game against the Falcons in December 2015.
North Dakota State became the FCS national champion for the seventh time in eight seasons after beating Eastern Washington 38-24 in January. With this win, the school surpassed Georgia Southern for the most national titles in Division I FCS history. Though the Clemson Tigers eventually won the College Football Playoff National Championship against the Alabama Crimson Tide 44-16, this win was still a tremendous accomplishment for North Dakota.
The Odell Beckham Jr. trade was a shock to sports fans in March, especially considering the Giants had signed him to a five-year, $90 million contract extension (making him the highest-paid receiver at the time), just seven months earlier. In the trade, the Giants received two picks in the 2019 draft and safety Jabrill Peppers.
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Oklahoma made history in 2018 after it became the first school with quarterbacks who won the Heisman Trophy in consecutive seasons. The Sooners did it again in 2019, when they became the only school in the history of the NFL Draft (that’s 83 years) to have quarterbacks drafted with the first pick in back-to-back years.
Since 2016 when Justin Herbert became the first true freshman quarterback to start for the Ducks since 1983, and subsequently one of the nation's top passers, he’s been on everyone’s draft radar. That’s why it came as a shock to many when he decided to forgo the 2019 draft and stay in Oregon to play for another year.
Regarded by many as the most eligible free agent in the history of baseball, Bryce Harper finally signed a deal with the Philadelphia Phillies in February. Harper went #1 in the 2010 draft and to the Washington Nationals before becoming the National League Rookie of the Year in 2012 and Most Valuable Player in 2015. This record-breaking $330 million contract made him the highest-paid athlete in baseball at the time.
Rhode Island may not have much drama with sports. So it came as a shock when, in August, the manager of the New Hampshire little league team made allegations against the Rhode Island team during the Little League World Series. The manager claimed that the team was stealing signs during games, which is somewhat common in the big leagues but generally frowned up at the Little League level.
When Clemson University beat #1 Alabama Crimson Tide in the January College Football Playoff championship game, the Tigers became the first to defeat the Bama by over 14 points since coach Nick Saban joined in 2007. In a twist that surprised many, the game wasn’t even close, as freshman quarterback Trevor Lawrence passed for 347 yards and three touchdowns in a 44-16 win.
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With the departure of cornerback Jordan Brown to the NFL, South Dakota State football made some major changes to its defense. Linebackers coach Jimmy Rogers and safeties coach Brian Bergstrom became co-defensive coordinators in August in a move that was bound to turn heads and promise an interesting change in procedure for the coaching staff.
In a game against Denver, Titans starting quarterback Marcus Mariota was benched in the third quarter after his second interception of the day and replaced with Ryan Tannehill. No one wants to see a star player get replaced due to poor play, but with Tannehill’s stellar performance following the decision, the Titans have renewed offensive life.
Houston Astros second baseman Jose Altuve hammered a walk-off two-run home run in the bottom of the ninth inning against Yankees pitcher Aroldis Chapman to send his team to the World Series. Thanks to Altuve’s homer, the Houston Astros became American League champs for the second time in three years and went up against the eventual champion Washington Nationals.
In a story that made national headlines in March, the Utah Jazz permanently banned a fan after he got into a verbal altercation with a player during the first half of the Oklahoma City Thunder game against the Jazz in Salt Lake City. The player in question, Russell Westbrook, was fined $25,000 by the NBA for the incident as well.
In October 2019, the University of Vermont men’s soccer team made history when it earned its first win against Dartmouth since 2008 and first win in Hanover, N.H., since 1999. Even better for Vermont, the victory broke Dartmouth's 23-game home winning streak.
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In the 2019 NCAA Championship game in April, the Virginia Cavaliers beat the Texas Tech Red Raiders, 85-77, in overtime for the program’s first title. After becoming the first #1 seed to lose to a #16 in the previous season, the Cavaliers victory was redemptive for both the players and the fans.
The Seattle Sounders soccer team beat top-seeded Los Angeles FC in October and went on to play in the third MLS Cup final in club history. The team beat Toronto FC and won the team’s second world title to a record-setting sold-out crowd at CenturyLink Field.
When two starting forwards for the West Virginia Mountaineers basketball team, Esa Ahmad and Wesley Harris, were dismissed from the team for violations of athletic department policies in February, things were not looking good. They eventually went 4-14 in conference during the 2018–2019 season, finishing last.
In January, rumors were swirling about the next coach for the popular Green Bay Packers. Former Rams and Titans offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur ultimately agreed to a four-year contract with the team, along with an option for a fifth year. Fans were hopeful that LaFleur’s knowledge of the game gained during his time with the Titans and Rams could help get their quarterback Aaron Rodgers back on track. He’s since vindicated the hiring.
The Wyoming Cowboys football team had won six straight home games since the previous season when it went up against Idaho in September. By the time the game was over, that winning streak had gone up to seven, the longest streak under head coach Craig Bohl. After that win, the team hadn’t been defeated since Oct. 20, 2018.
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