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PROVO — Hang the banner; the BYU Cougars are national champions.
At least, one Cougar is: Cosmo himself.
The venerated mascot beloved in most of Utah, or at least all of Provo, was declared national mascot champion Friday by SiriusXM College Sports after surviving a rigorous 64-man/woman/animal/dog/cat/whatever-the-heck-a-Hilltopper-is battle for supremacy.
The acclaimed Cougar finished off a remarkable run to the title with a win over fellow No. 16 Western Kentucky University, and another come-from-behind win that BYU fans will be tweeting about for years (or more likely, days, or even hours) to come.
Sure, it's just a silly little Twitter contest. But both teams took the game seriously, with trash talk, rally cries, celebrity and alumni endorsements, and the whole nine yards.
And in the end, maybe something a little more exciting than an internet game came out of it. Western Kentucky athletic director Todd Stewart tweeted at BYU counterpart Tom Holmoe that he "would love" to schedule a football and/or men's basketball series between the two schools.
"The schools have never played in football and Western Kentucky basketball leads the all-time hoops series 3-0, but we haven’t played since 1954," Stewart said. "Let’s make this happen, Tom Holmoe!"
CONGRATS COSMO!! 🏆 pic.twitter.com/urQ7b4rZKW— BYU Cougars (@BYUCougars) April 17, 2020
Cosmo and Big Red, the opposing mascot from WKU, were both originally No. 16 seeds in Sirius XM’s giant bracket. The Cougar wasn’t even in the initial tournament draw, and had to battle through a play-in game to make the final field of 64.
Few similarly gave Big Red much of a chance, as well.
But to quote Paul Rudd, “Hey, look at us! Who would’ve thought?”
The final ensued over a three day battle of wills, want and famous alumni. Thousands of votes poured in, and though WKU had a commanding lead, BYU fought back.
The final tally revealed Cosmo victorious, with a 51% final tally.
The polls have closed, but due to suspicion of voter fraud an investigation is underway. https://t.co/BixCzMHxIL— College Sports on SiriusXM (@SXMCollege) April 17, 2020
But wait; there was controversy in the ranks. Hilltopper fans cried foul — not to be confused with crying fowl, another common pastime in the great state of Kentucky — with claims of voter fraud. It seemed that BYU fans on a popular message board had designed a system to buy hundreds of fake Twitter accounts to stuff the ballot box.
During the official investigation, it became unclear to which ethnic origin the fake Twitter accounts belonged. But former BYU punter and rugby star Jonny Linehan was singled out among the infringers.
When it’s obvious, yes. pic.twitter.com/PhjKAo7315— Braden Kemmerer (@BradenKemmerer) April 17, 2020
Linehan could not be immediately reached for comment. He briefly disappeared from Twitter during the investigation, but reappeared later with a formal statement apparently read by notorious MMA fighter Conor McGregor, though sources close to the situation confirmed to KSL.com that the Irishman is not a countryman of the New Zealand punting star Linehan.
After an investigation, Sirius XM declared the winner: Cosmo was recognized as the top mascot in the country.
WKU released the following statement at the conclusion of the showdown:
“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. 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.”
BYU officials declined to respond. But everyone knows that WKU probably would’ve lost under that strategy, because Cosmo always throws rock.
In this case, indeed, he did rock.