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Thrilling finishes, Pierce case mark sports year

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

DES MOINES (AP) - The year began with a stunning play for Iowa and ended with several for Northern Iowa. In between, the state had no bigger sports newsmaker in 2005 than Pierre Pierce.

Pierce was the leading scorer on the Iowa basketball team when he was accused of assaulting a former girlfriend at her West Des Moines home in late January. By late October, Pierce was serving a two-year prison term.

The incident happened less than a month after Drew Tate and Warren Holloway hooked up on one of the most dramatic plays in Iowa football history. Holloway caught a 56-yard touchdown pass from Tate as time expired to give the Hawkeyes a 30-25 victory over LSU in the Capital One Bowl on Jan. 1.

"I thought I overthrew him," Tate said. "Once Warren caught it, he wasn't going down."

Northern Iowa's football team also showed a flair for fantastic finishes. The Panthers made one comeback after another in their march to a share of the Gateway Conference championship and a berth in the NCAA Division I-AA title game. But the magic ran out against Appalachian State, which beat UNI 21-16 to win the national championship.

"We broke the barrier of Northern Iowa not getting to the national title (game)," defensive tackle Kevin Stensrud said. "Now another team in the future has another barrier to break."

It also was a year in which the Iowa, Iowa State and Northern Iowa men all made the NCAA basketball tournament. The Iowa and Iowa State football teams both earned bowl trips _ again _ and there was a passing of sorts on the high school scene.

The state wrestling meet and boys and girls basketball tournaments were held at Veterans Auditorium in Des Moines for the last time, ending a 50-year run at Vets. All three tournaments move to the new Wells Fargo Arena in 2006.

And amid everything else, there was that pink locker room.

News that Pierce was in trouble again broke Jan. 31 when West Des Moines police said they were investigating the Iowa junior in an assault case.

Coach Steve Alford kicked Pierce off the team two days later, saying there had been a "betrayal of trust." Pierce had been accused of assault in 2002, but pleaded guilty to lesser charges.

Pierce eventually struck a deal with prosecutors and pleaded guilty to charges of third-degree burglary and assault with intent to commit sexual abuse. He was sentenced Oct. 28.

It took the Hawkeyes a few games to get used to playing without Pierce, but they reached the NCAA tournament. Iowa State and Northern Iowa also earned at-large bids, but only Iowa State reached the second round, where the Cyclones lost to eventual national champion North Carolina.

Iowa State was the only women's team in the state that made the NCAA tournament. Iowa reached the semifinals in the WNIT.

In football, the Hawkeyes and Cyclones both went 7-4 during the regular season. Iowa earned a berth in a January bowl for the fourth straight year, this time the Outback in Tampa against Florida, the team the Hawkeyes beat in that bowl two years ago.

Iowa State will play TCU in the Houston Bowl.

A key player for the Cyclones was defensive end Jason Berryman, who was allowed back on the team after spending 258 days in the Story County Jail for robbery and assault.

In Iowa City, the pink color scheme in the visitor's locker room at Kinnick Stadium touched off controversy after a visitor declared that it demeans women and perpetuates offensive stereotypes about homosexuality.

University President David Skorton rejected a suggestion to have a committee look into the matter and declared the controversy over.

Iowa State underwent a change at the top of its athletic department. Athletic director Bruce Van De Velde resigned in September and was replaced by Jamie Pollard, who had been deputy AD at Wisconsin.

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