(6) Jane LaRiviere vs. (11) LeAndre Daniels: Coug of the Year 2011 First Round

It's time for Coug of the Year to ramp things up. I promised to have a COTY champion by kickoff of the football season, and we're going to make it happen.

So, with that in mind, let's get French.

This is not only a battle between different sports, but a battle of the sexes as well. La is a feminine pronoun in french; Le is the masculine. Jane LaRiviere is the most successful Cougar sports coach no one talks about. LeAndre Daniels has proven to be a fighter and a source of ongoing inspiration for the WSU football team. To the rundown:

(6) Jane LaRiviere

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Washington State, which - I'm obligated to remind you - is about a half hour from a major body of water, finished 12th in this year's NCAA rowing championships. WSU's second varsity eight and varsity four each placed tenth in their individual races. In most revenue sports fans would murder for a Top 10 national finish; in Cougar rowing it's not that big of a shock at all. At least not anymore.

Of course, the Pac-12 will continue to be a juggernaut. The conference placed three teams in the top five overall, and the Cougs were one of five Pac-10 teams to place at the NCAA championships. Still, it's nothing short of incredible that the Cougars are finishing ahead of both major conference opponents (Michigan, Clemson) and traditional Ivy League powers (Harvard, Dartmouth). 17 members of the team earned Pac-10 All-Academic honors.

Jane is the the most successful coach currently roaming the sidelines (shorelines?) at WSU today. Just please don't tell anyone. We'd like to actually keep a coach of her caliber.

(11) LeAndre Daniels

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I always appreciated that the TV version of Friday Night Lights featured a stunning, life-altering injury to one of the team's players. Wait, wait. I don't mean appreciate as in I "liked" someone getting injured. I just mean that I liked how realistic the show was about it. Football is fun... but it can also be a dangerous, brutal sport. A sport that injures. A sport where you can be flying around the field one minute and lying in agony on the turf the next. Promising careers get cut short. Seasons are lost. It's not just football, it's almost every contact sport. Ask Steve Moore. Ask Steve Zakuani. Or LeAndre Daniels.

It's good that serious accidents don't happen often. But they still happen too often to good people, and some people are just more unlucky than others. After redshirting in 2008, Daniels' 2009 season came to a close with a broken leg in the second game of the year against Hawai'i. In 2010 a freak neck injury in practice that was thought to be minor turned out to be a fracture of the C1 vertebrae. That one would be more than just a season-ending injury. Daniels would have to call it a career. The risk of further damage to his spine was just too great to justify playing again.

Nevertheless, Daniels remains an inspiration to the entire Cougar defense, including his roommate Tyree Toomer. Toomer mentioned to Cougfan.com in July that LeAndre was out of the neck brace and continuing to improve.

It's a shame Daniels never had a decent chance to showcase his talent on the field. He was still honorable mention All-Academic for the Pac-10 in 2009.

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