Athletics Director Ross Bjork said earlier in the week that the football team banquet on Sunday night would be the ideal setting to announce that WKU was going to a bowl.
But neither Bjork nor Head Coach Willie Taggart were able to make such an announcement.
The Toppers instead found themselves on the outside looking in when the bowl schedule was announced on Sunday.
WKU (7-5) was the only Football Bowl Subdivision team with a winning record to not receive a bowl invite.
"I guess we still haven't done enough," Head Coach Willie Taggart said following the banquet. "We're still not respected."
Both Taggart and Bjork had reiterated the Toppers' credentials in the two weeks since the team clinched bowl eligibility with a Nov. 19 win over North Texas.
WKU had won seven of its last eight games, including seven straight in Sun Belt Conference play.
The Toppers' only loss in that time came against No. 1 Louisiana State.
WKU also featured the nation's second leading rusher, senior running back Bobby Rainey, and brought the storyline of a team on a resurgent run just one year removed from a 26-game losing streak.
And the Toppers finished second in a league which saw three other teams (Arkansas State, Louisiana-Lafayette and Florida International) get bowl bids.
But none of that was enough to get the Toppers, one of 72 bowl eligible teams, in one of the FBS' 70 bowl slots.
Bjork said the Toppers' 0-4 non-conference record and 15,310 average attendance, the nation's third lowest, factored heavily in the selection process.
"That's what it comes down to, those two things," Bjork said. "That's part of building our resume, that's part of building our program… We have to mature to that level so we don't have this happen in the future."
Bjork said the three teams fighting for the final pair of bowl slots were Illinois, Toledo and WKU.
Illinois, currently on a six-game losing streak, accepted a bid to the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl in San Francisco late Sunday afternoon.
Minutes later it was reported that Toledo was heading to the Military Bowl in Dallas.
That left the Toppers out of the bowl picture, staying home after their best season in three years as a full FBS member.
"The good thing is, it came down to the wire," Bjork said. "We know that we were really the team that was left out. We were next."
Speculation throughout the past week pointed to the BBVA Compass Bowl as the most likely postseason destination for WKU.
Topper fans had taken to Twitter and Facebook in full force, directly lobbying the bowl to pick WKU.
But the Birmingham, Ala., bowl picked Pittsburgh and Southern Methodist instead of the Toppers.
The BBVA Compass Bowl posted a message to WKU fans on its Facebook page after news broke that it had selected Pitt and SMU.
"Your enthusiasm and the support you have shown your team has been tremendous," the official post read. "While our conference agreements may have prohibited us from extending you an invitation your efforts did not go unnoticed."
Bjork said he received positive response from BBVA Compass Bowl representatives despite WKU not being selected.
"The feedback was that you guys did everything as a program in your power to position yourselves. It just came down to the numbers," Bjork said.
Bjork said last week that the league needed to look into its rules concerning when teams can accept bowl invitations.
The Sun Belt spots in the two bowls with which the league has primary tie-ins, the GoDaddy.com and R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowls, were filled two weeks ago by Arkansas State and Louisiana-Lafayette.
That left WKU, which still had a chance of sharing the Sun Belt title at the time, having to stump for an at-large bid to another bowl.
Bjork declined to comment directly on the early invitation situation but said he and the league's other athletic directors need to come together over the offseason and discuss bowl procedures.
"We need to talk about it as ADs and we need to talk about in the league office and we'll ask those questions and talk about it and have a dialogue," Bjork said.
Twelve WKU seniors, including Rainey, left tackle Wes Jeffries and defensive end Jared Clendenin, have all played their final games at WKU.
"They're part of something special whether we're in a bowl or not," Taggart said. "They can keep their heads up and the seniors can leave here feeling good about themselves."
Taggart said WKU coaches have already hit the recruiting trails and that the returning players will soon begin offseason training.
"We can go into spring ball with a chip on our shoulder and make sure this don't happen," he said. "Make sure the people in the front office of the Sun Belt respect us."