WKU to square off against BYU, mascot rivalry renewed

Big Red eats volleyballs in Diddle Arena on October 6, 2019.

Nick Kieser

A renowned Twitter mascot rivalry from the early stages of COVID-19 has resurfaced following a schedule update from the WKU football program Friday. 

The Hilltoppers are to play on Halloween at Brigham Young University – the first meeting between the programs on the gridiron.

“I am very excited to add BYU to the list of institutions against whom we are competing,” WKU President Timothy Caboni said. “That is a storied program that we had a heated mascot battle with during the early stages of the pandemic. I am thankful and pleased that we’re going to be able to continue some of that rivalry that began there.”

According to Associate Director of Communications Bryan Fyalkowski, this will be the Hilltoppers’ first ever game in the state of Utah and fourth farthest game the program has traveled west for.

The Hilltoppers played twice in Sacramento, California, against Louisiana Tech University in 1973 and Northern Michigan University in 1975. The farthest game played away from The Hill was in Spokane, Washington, against Eastern Washington University for a 1997 NCAA Division I-AA playoff game.

Rewinding back to April 15, WKU’s Big Red and BYU’s Cosmo the Cougar faced off in Sirius XM’s Mascot Bracket challenge on Twitter.

Cosmo and Big Red were both absent from the tournament until each mascot won a play-in matchup to be the lowest-seeded mascots in the bracket. The two No. 16 seeded mascots met in the finals, which college sports fans across the nation did not see coming.

On the way to the national championship, Big Red defeated six consecutive mascots representing Power 5 opponents, knocking off Mississippi’s Landshark Tony, LSU’s Mike the Tiger, Auburn’s Aubie, Georgia Tech’s Buzz the Yellow Jacket, Tennessee’s Smokey and Oklahoma’s Sooner Schooner en route to an appearance in the bracket’s national championship round.

Cosmo won the national championship following a brief suspicion of voter fraud on both sides. Following three hours of awaiting the final result, BYU’s infamous cougar emerged victorious claiming 51% of votes. 

During the investigation, the SiriusXM College Twitter account reached out to WKU and offered for a game of rock-paper-scissors to be the deciding factor to crown a victorious mascot. But the WKU Sports Twitter declined the offer.

“Too many sports fans had come together to reach a common goal for it to end that way. That being said, we suspected BYU would’ve thrown paper, so we intended to go scissors,” @WKUSports tweeted in response to SiriusXM College’s Twitter.

Now the programs will battle between the lines in LaVell Edwards Stadium, which is also 4,549 feet above sea level.

Having the Sept. 12 matchup with the University of Louisville allows WKU to get ready to face the BYU, a team that went 7-6 in the previous season. And with the Hilltoppers having their first home game in September, they get more time to learn from what other universities are doing across the nation.

“When you are in a situation with a great deal of uncertainty and you’re making decisions based upon imperfect data and incomplete information until you must absolutely make a decision, it doesn’t make more sense to delay and get as much clarity and as much additional information you can,” Caboni said.

The initial inquiry about the respective programs playing each other on the field or the court came after voting polls closed April 17, when WKU Athletic Director Todd Stewart tweeted at BYU’s Athletic Director Tom Holmoe.

“We would love to do a football and/or basketball series. The schools have never played in football and @WKUBasketball leads the all-time hoops series 3-0 but we haven’t played since 1954. Let’s make this happen @TomHolmoe!”

Sports Editor Nick Kieser can be reached at [email protected] wku.edu. Follow Nick on Twitter at @ KieserNick.