Top 10 greatest upsets in sports history

Published: Monday, April 11 2011 9:36 a.m. MDT

#10 - Man-o-War loses his only race to Upset Next » 1 of 10 « Prev
Associated Press
This had to make our list, if for no other reason than the fact that the horse’s name was “Upset.” In fact, this is where the phrase “Upset” actually comes from. You don’t say “VCU pulled a Buster Douglas.” You say “VCU pulled off an upset.” What makes it most impressive, though? Upset was a 100-to-1 shot to win the race that day in 1919, and it was the only loss in the career of one of the Top 2 greatest race horses of all-time.

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Salt Lake City, UT

Golden State Warriors upset the Mavs? Any consideration?

Mormon Ute
Kaysville, UT

Great memories! I wish professional sports could generate the kind of drama it used to. Now with spoiled owners and spoiled players fighting over who deserves more of the billions of dollars they get from overcharging fans for everything from tickets to merchandise it's hard to get excited about the games.

Hardcore UTE-FAN!!
Spanish Fork, UT

WHAT!!! The Utes winning the Sugar Bowl easily should have been on this list. Here goes the D-News again. . . wearing Blue Goggles!!! Oh well, I guess I'll console myself with my 220 million dollars that we're gonna get from our new conference, The Conference of Champions!!! While the D-News wears Blue goggles, I'm gonna wear "Rose" colored ones!!


a paltry Sugar bowl? please ute fan not even worthy of consideration as was the nuggets over the Sonics, not close to being worthy

flagstaff, AZ

How in the world can any list of upsets be considered even slightly credible without any mention of 800-student Chaminade defeating top-ranked Virginia and Ralph Sampson in 1982? It has to be number 1, with the "miracle on ice" a DISTANT second.

Provo, UT

Ali over Liston? That was considered a huge upset and was one of the biggest events in sports history period. And how about when Leon Spinks beat Ali.

The Pirates over the Yanks in 1960 should not be Honorable Mention, it should be on the list.

And how about the '69 Mets beating the mighty Orioles to win the series. And the Mets beating the Big Red Machine in 1973 was huge. The Reds won over 100 games, the Mets had won 83.

And one Jazz fans want to forget. Chris Mullin and the Warriors sweeping the Jazz as the #7 seed in 1990 (?). That one was painful. I also remember the Rockets beating the Lakers in the early 80's. That was huge.

I think BYU beating Miami and the U beating Alabama could be considered too. But none probably bigger in reality than Appalachian State beating Michigan in the Big House.

Provo, UT

I saw the '69 Mets as #5, my bad on the oversight. A must for this list, glad to see it there.

El Jefe
Las Vegas, NV

You ain't gettin no 220 million, and the pac is anything but, the conference of champions. Geez....stupid people just come in bunches.

Triple B
Milford, NH

The 2004 Boston Red Sox beating the Yankees 4 games to 3 after trailing 0-3. Now that was huge!

Not from Utah
Spring, TX

Im not so sure of the Karelin-Gardner inclusion on this list. Considering the fact that eventually he had to lose and that this happened at the end of Karelins career (he never won again), can it really be considered a top ten greatest upset in sports history? If Karelin had continued to dominate, then I wouldnt be so doubtful.

And Hardcore UTE-FAN, your suggestion of including Utahs Sugar Bowl victory makes you the poster boy for myopic fan-boys unaware that the sports world is a lot bigger than your small circle of association.

Provo, UT

I would also agree Chaminade beating Virginia and Ralph Sampson was a huge upset, in some ways the poster above is right, it was a true David beating a Goliath. But I think the Miracle on Ice should be #1 because it was a big upset but also historically important. In retrospect, Ali beating Liston might not be a big upset but at the time it was a big upset and certainly it changed the world of boxing and sport.

I would call the 2004 Red Sox beating the Yankees perhaps the greatest comeback in sports, but the Red Sox beating the Yankees themselves as a mild upset. I think the the two teams were separated by maybe five games, if that, during the regular season. I don't look at the Warriors beating the Mavs or the Nuggets beating the Sonics as that huge because neither the Mavericks (especially) or the Sonics could be considered great teams. They were just higher seeds beaten by underdogs. I think the Rockets beating the defending NBA champs Lakers in 1980, I believe the year, is a bigger upset because the Lakers of that era were great teams.

Beaverton, OR

The "miracle on ice" will always be #1. It was an event of national pride during a tense political time--the Cold War was raging. Even we 'hockey haters' were riveted on the game and have never forgotten the victorious moment!

Dulles, VA

No way. The Karelin-Gardner match was huge. It would have been, and was "supposed to be" his fourth gold medal. Nobody had touched the guy for decades and he had dominated everyone his whole career, and then here comes pudgy Rulon Gardner from Idaho and stuns the world. EPIC!

Provo, UT

@ Hardcore UTE-FAN!!

Thanks for the laugh! That is a good one!

Uncle Gadianton
Salt Lake City, Utah

I hate to be pedantic, but the term "upset," meaning an unexpected defeat, was in use long before Upset beat Man O'War in 1919. Several writers commented on the appropriateness of the horse's name, but it was not the first time that "upset" was used in sports reporting. The best that can be said is that the 1919 race helped cement the term in our sports venacular.

provo, UT

I agree that this is a biased blue paper, and I don't like BYU either, but I don't see an anti UTE bias on this list...

Washington, UT

How about 2 big upsets that were not supposed to happen against BYU?

That would be the Utah State Aggie victory over BYU in 1978 in Provo against
All-American Jim McMahn. Jim still to this day says that was one of his worst defeats ever.

And again in 1982 when Steve Young and BYU was supposed to come into Logan's Romney Stadium and trash USU. Utah State Aggies 20 BYU 17

Even though Utah State has lost clout since BYU and Utah would not let them play together in the same concerence since 1962 forming of the original WAC,
The Aggies Still can be a thorn in BYU's game plane's. And don't forget John L. Smith's upset of the Mighty Utes in the mid- 90's....

Utah and BYU most of the time would wish that USU Aggies would just go away, and quit trying to be like them. The only way that USU will ever stop really despising the Y and the U is if they get invited to play in the same conference as they. And we know that the Y and the U does not want that to happen!

DEW Cougars
Sandy, UT

I say #6 Villanova vs Georgetown should be at #2 because who would have beleive Nova winning against mighty Hoyas Patrick Ewing, Sleepy kid (nmae?)and John Thompson? I mean, Nova kept hitting their shots which was so crazy that kept on going in.

Not from Utah
Spring, TX

rph, while what you're saying about that match is certainly the prevailing opinion (Joe Posnanski wrote a good article about it recently), I still can't help but think that since he dominated for so long maybe it was simply time for him to lose. That really was the end of his career. I'm not sure that the end of a very long dominating streak should therefore mean greatest upset. Epic for sure. Greatest upset? I'm not certain.

Alpine, UT

@ rph

Reality check: Rulon Gardner is from Wyoming, not Idaho.

@ el jefe

Thank you for your very apt definition of Ute trolls (as "always come in bunches"). With your permission I would like to borrow that.

My vote would be for the stunning Boise State victory over Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl - which ranks right up there with Appalacian State over Michigan in the Big House.

Dulles, VA

Wow, thanks for dropping some "reality" on me, bro. It changes my entire argument.

LaVerkin, Utah

It is hard to say what are the ten top sports upsets, as shown by the comments in this string. I can say one thing however, the next top sports upset (maybe even comming close to a top 10) will be when Utah achieves three or more conference wins in one year in the PAC12 in either basketball or football. It may happen, but the odds are against it, just about like the odds of the US defeating Russia in the miracle on ice.

Mountain Bird
West Jordan, UT

Gosh! I was hoping the Jazz beating the Lakers last week might have made this list.

South Weber, UT

The following Sunday the U.S Hockey team defeated Finland for the gold medal.

Clearfield, UT

Lowly Weber State has knocked off North Carolina and Michigan State from the NCAA. And came within a oouple of point of taking out Georgetown in the second round. What about that Ivy league school with a great b-ball coach, Yale I think. Didn't they pull off a big NCAA upset. I am going from memory so feel free to correct me if I am wrong.

Salt Lake City, UT

Surely there's got to be an upset outside of America worthy of note?

Personally the Sox coming back from down 3-0 to the Yankees has to be one of them.

Bountiful, UT

Funny that the author misspells "Phi Slama Jama" when it's shown in the picture.

Syracuse, NY

I realize that Des News has essentially become an extension of the Daily Universe but the venom toward anything that is related to the University of Utah is an embarrassment. As both a BYU and Utah fan, frankly, I am glad that Utah's win over Alabama is not included (for very different reasons than the nonsensical and irrational response by "Not from Utah"). I would like to think that really wasn't an upset. Anyway, BYU Koolaid drinkers PLEASE get over Utah being invited to the Pac-10. It really is time to move on and cut the vitriolic comments. You are embarrassing BYU fans everywhere.

Lake Elsinore, CA

I, too, was thinking as I strolled through the list that Chaminade defeating Virginia would be No. 1. When I saw the Miracle on Ice as No. 1, I realized that of course the Miracle on Ice would be No. 1. But, I would have then placed Chaminade No. 2 ... or at least in the Top 10. That was big when that happened. In looking back through the list, almost all of the events had a championship on the line and Chaminade's win was not a championship. So, the choices selected were good choices. But, Chaminade should have been in there somewhere.

American Fork, UT

Denmark winning Euro 1992. I know it is foreign and it is soccer but Denmark only made the tournament because Yugoslavia was disqualified for civil war and then ended up beating defending defending European champions Netherlands in the semi-final and world cup champions Germany in the final 2-0.

Farmington, UT

So there's nothing about "golf?" Or "shooting?" All this time I thought they were "sports" too, especially shooting. I'd say it was just team sports, but then you threw in boxing, which is a rather strange personal sport designed to "hurt" the other guy (sort of like shooting an animal, I believe).

Alpine Coug
Alpine, UT

@ Max in Syracuse

Like so many Ute fans, there is just a bit of delusion in your post. This post was not about you. Nor was it about BYU, but simply a statement of the greatest upsets of all time. Sorry to report that Boise State's totally unexpected win over Oklahoma tops your Cinderella victory over Alabama...and BSU's dramatic win didn't even make the top ten. Nor did BYU's amazing upset of Miami back in 1990.

Perhaps you do not frequently visit comment boards on any BYU article. If not, you have missed some of the most hateful and vitriolic comments of all time written by Ute trolls. These envious and spiteful comments show up on every BYU article and truly make Utah fans everywhere look petty and jealous.

My entreaty to you and all fans everywhere is to "get over yourself". Leave the trash talking to the players on the field. It really doesn't matter what you or I think. We will see you in September (3 of 5) and again next winter (9 of 10+). And that is not trash talking, but simply facts.

Floyd Johnson
Broken Arrow, OK

toosmartforyou: Or chariot racing. I am sure Gaius Appuleius Diocles was surprised a few times. Perhaps we can put in some qualifiers: top 10 upsets in major sporting events of interest to a typical American sports fan. That means some great rugby, bowling, curling, and cricket matches are out.

I am with scrain on the BSU OU. One of my favorite games.

Farmington, UT

Floyd: We also left out the ultimate sport (according to southerners) - NASCAR. Surely if auto racing is a "sport" there has been a few "upsets" there, too.

Oh, I forgot: It's U of U or BSU or USU that are tops....LOL!!

Provo, UT

Sleepy Floyd was the guy that played with Ewing and he had a nice career in the NBA.

I don't mind the Miracle on Ice being #1 but the Chaminade upset of Virginia, which I ignored in my initial post, was amazing. I mean it was David vs. Goliath with Virginia actually having a Goliath figure in Ralph Sampson.

I would say Appalachian State beating Michigan was a bigger upset than Boise State vs. OU. because it happened at Michigan and Appalachian State plays a lower level of football. It wasn't that Michigan was all that bad either. I think they finished 10-3 that season and beat defending national champions Florida in a bowl game. As we have learned Boise State is a top flight program and probably on paper the distance on paper between them and OU isn't all that great in talent where Appalachian State doesn't even get the same number of scholarships as Michigan, OU or Boise State.

One upset of historical significance though in reality the two programs were probably about the same in talent was Texas Western beating Kentucky in 1966. That game had huge historical implications.

Not from Utah
Spring, TX

Max, you're kidding, right? You think it's rational and sensible to put the Sugar Bowl victory on the list of top 10 sports upsets? C'mon, you're in NY. Go make that argument with a straight face to someone outside the Utah or BYU fan base.

Provo, UT

What about Boise State vs Oklahoma!?

Syracuse, NY

Alpine Coug and Not from Utah.

Please read with your minds and not your emotions. I stated that I WAS GLAD that Utah's win over Alabama was not included. And Alpine Coug, I hardly know what to say about your emotional rant? Calm down and reread my comments. You saw things in there that simply are not there. Moreover, I AM A BYU FAN!!!

lion in zion
salt lake city, ut

wow ali not mentioned? he shook up the world both in the ring and outside of it, in a time that he gave people of color a place to be respected and you got some horse ahead of him? Im sending this back to Missouri for sure!

Y Grad / Y Dad
Richland, WA

Sorry, Max, not buyin' it.

But you are right, and should lead with it. What do they keep telling us BYU fans, "Act like you've been here before?"

I suppose BYU -vs- Oklahoma could be considered. Not as big a game as the sugar bowl, but surely as big or bigger upset. I'm alright if we (the Y) don't have an upset victory on the list, and I am very grateful we don't have an upset defeat there (thanks for the memories, aggie fans everywhere).

By definition, isn't it an upset anytime USU beats BYU?

Sorry, just being self-righteous and arrogant.

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