No. 16 seed WKU comes up short against No. 16 seed BYU in SiriusXM’s Mascot Bracket, championship round poll tainted by ‘suspicion of voter fraud’

Big Red sneaks behind referee Kelly Dennis during the second half of the Lady Topper’s 80-71 victory over the University of Louisiana Lafayette Wednesday, March 5, 2014 at Diddle Arena in Bowling Green, Ky. (Mike Clark/HERALD)

Drake Kizer

After a miracle run through the SiriusXM Mascot Bracket, 16th-seeded Big Red wasn’t able to pull off an unblemished 7-0 Cinderella run in postseason play, instead finishing as the national runner-up in a high-scoring poll that was marred by formally investigated allegations of voter fraud.

No. 16 seed WKU and Big Red stumbled short of the finish line against fellow No. 16 seed Brigham Young University and Cosmo the Cougar in the SiriusXM Mascot Bracket on Friday, as the Hilltoppers were defeated in their sixth-round matchup and finished second in the national championship round.

Like WKU, BYU was also left out of the original bracket. The Cougars qualified via play-in game and went on to defeat seven mascots to claim the SiriusXM Mascot Bracket national championship.

As voting ended at 11 a.m. on Friday, the big-mouthed red blob had tallied 48.9% of the votes, while Cosmo the Cougar got 51.1%. In total, 96,035 votes were cast in the national championship round, and just minutes after the poll ended, SiriusXM announced it had launched an investigation.

“The polls have closed, but due to suspicion of voter fraud an investigation is underway,” the College Sports on SiriusXM Twitter account tweeted at 11:02 a.m.

{{tncms-inline account=”College Sports on SiriusXM” html=”<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="und" dir="ltr"><a href="https://t.co/vnri4sJdR4">pic.twitter.com/vnri4sJdR4</a></p>— College Sports on SiriusXM (@SXMCollege) <a href="https://twitter.com/SXMCollege/status/1250453859153129472?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">April 15, 2020</a></blockquote>” id=”https://twitter.com/SXMCollege/status/1250453859153129472″ type=”twitter”}}

WKU supporters rallied behind their beloved Big Red even more than in previous rounds of voting, as Bob Skipper, director of media relations for WKU, sent out mass emails on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday encouraging students, faculty, and staff to vote, while countless other members of Hilltopper Nation encouraged their Twitter followers to vote and support Big Red as well.

{{tncms-inline account=”WKU Sports” html=”<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Hilltopper Nation, show your support for <a href="https://twitter.com/WKUBigRed?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@WKUBigRed</a> with this “I Voted” sticker!Share the image on social media or make it your Twitter avatar to help spread the word that every vote matters! <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/GoTops?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#GoTops</a> <a href="https://t.co/LoLOyy5K3W">https://t.co/LoLOyy5K3W</a> <a href="https://t.co/mtYsbA0df3">pic.twitter.com/mtYsbA0df3</a></p>— WKU Sports (@WKUSports) <a href="https://twitter.com/WKUSports/status/1250830807566073861?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">April 16, 2020</a></blockquote>” id=”https://twitter.com/WKUSports/status/1250830807566073861″ type=”twitter”}}

{{tncms-inline account=”College Sports on SiriusXM” html=”<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Two hours left to vote! Brad Shultz of <a href="https://twitter.com/CageTheElephant?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@CageTheElephant</a> chatted with <a href="https://twitter.com/ChildersRadio?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@ChildersRadio</a> about the mascot bracket and his ties to <a href="https://twitter.com/WKUSports?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@WKUSports</a>. <a href="https://t.co/D4DD9iVUZX">pic.twitter.com/D4DD9iVUZX</a> <a href="https://t.co/SaeossXtOP">https://t.co/SaeossXtOP</a></p>— College Sports on SiriusXM (@SXMCollege) <a href="https://twitter.com/SXMCollege/status/1251148906437603330?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">April 17, 2020</a></blockquote>” id=”https://twitter.com/SXMCollege/status/1251148906437603330″ type=”twitter”}}

The poll remained neck and neck throughout a large portion of the the championship matchup, but many WKU supporters started to accuse BYU of buying votes to pad its total— a controversy that has arisen in other Twitter polls in recent weeks — during the waning hours of the final round, which likely prompted SiriusXM to get involved in an attempt to resolve the alleged voting discrepancies.

After three hours of deliberation, the College Sports on SiriusXM Twitter account tweeted its final decision on the official SiriusXM Mascot Bracket national champion at 2 p.m.

“After looking into the voting of the Championship match-up, it has been determined that @BYUCougars’ @byu_cosmo is the 2020 SiriusXM Mascot Bracket Champion,” the College Sports on SiriusXM Twitter account tweeted at 2 p.m. “Thanks to all schools and fans that participated!”

About 20 minutes later, the verified Twitter account for WKU Sports released its “official statement on the @SXMCollege controversy,” indicating how proud the Hilltoppers and all of WKU Athletics are “of @wku, @WKUBigRed and all of Hilltopper Nation.”

“During the investigation, because of potential voting issues @SXMCollege graciously reached out and offered to let us decide the national champion with a game of rock-paper-scissors, but we declined,” the WKU Sports Twitter account tweeted at 2:18 p.m. “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.”

The official Twitter account for Big Red also helped the mascot — which opened the postseason as a notable snub not even included in the initial version of the SiriusXM bracket — share its thoughts.

“THANK YOU to all of Hilltopper Nation, our Community, our Real People, for showing everyone what the WKU Spirit is truly about! #TopsOnTop,” the Big Red Twitter account tweeted at 2:06 p.m.

During its unprecedented run through the postseason, 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.

{{tncms-inline account=”Big Red” html=”<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">THANK YOU to all of Hilltopper Nation, our Community, our Real People, for showing everyone what the WKU Spirit is truly about! 🚩<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/TopsOnTop?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#TopsOnTop</a> <a href="https://t.co/nHoQdHI10c">pic.twitter.com/nHoQdHI10c</a></p>— Big Red (@WKUBigRed) <a href="https://twitter.com/WKUBigRed/status/1251225593213063170?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">April 17, 2020</a></blockquote>” id=”https://twitter.com/WKUBigRed/status/1251225593213063170″ type=”twitter”}}

Sports Editor Drake Kizer can be reached at [email protected] Follow Drake on Twitter at @drakekizer_.