WIU Thanks Fans for Support
March 17, 2014
MACOMB, IL -- It started with more than 340 schools, and in the end, it came down to two.
Since mid-January, Western Illinois University has been battling for a spot in the championship round of the NCAA 6thFan Contest. WIU advanced to the Sweet 16 last month, which earned $10,000 for the University's general scholarship fund. From there, the Fighting Leathernecks remained the only Illinois school to continue into each round, eventually being the only Summit League member left standing in the competition.
The championship round, which was held March 10-March 16, pitted Western against Brigham Young University (BYU) for the $100,000 prize for scholarships. Unfortunately, WIU lost to the Cougars despite incredible Leathernecks fan support.
"This contest was about whose college or university had the best fans. Despite our loss in the championship round, I'd argue that Western actually has the best fans. We came together to vote and to support our school. For us it was a matter of pride and unity," said Vice President for Advancement and Public Services Brad Bainter, who led marketing and promotional efforts for the contest. "In my 31 years at Western, I can honestly say that I have never seen a more inspired and unified effort by our alumni, students, faculty, staff, friends, and community."
Originally, the NCAA predicted Western would secure just 12 percent of the votes in the Championship round, later upping the prediction to 19 percent, but WIU's tenacious efforts, which included voting parties, voting marathons and voting "power hours," surprised the BYU Cougars as evidenced on their message boards during the contest. Western ended the contest with 38 percent (1.7 million) of the votes. On Sunday, March 16 alone – the final day of the competition – Leathernecks fans tallied 74,461 votes from 8 a.m.-3 p.m.
"Considering Brigham Young has three times the number of alumni and students than Western, WIU continued to persevere and hold a total well above predictions. This says so much about Western's spirit and its fans," said WIU President Jack Thomas. "I would like to thank faculty, staff, student, alumni and other individuals who dedicated their time and efforts for WIU. I am so very proud to be a part of Western Illinois University."
According to Bainter, another amazing fact surrounding the competition – outside of fan support – is that until the last few days of the Final Four portion of the competition, WIU was the only school left in the competition that was voting the "old-fashioned" way, that is not using automated scripts which helped the user enter the captcha code more quickly, and was still holding its own. University Technology (uTech) staff, under the direction of Associate Provost Kathy Neumann, quickly created a script so that Western could continue to hold its own with other schools who had been using "voting accelerators" (and other methods) to vote during the competition.
Tim Hallinan, director of WIU's Annual Fund, led the numerous voting marathons and voting parties on campus throughout the competition.
"While the voting accelerator helped us vote more efficiently, even prior to that, we all came together to keep Western in the running," Hallinan added. "I could not be more proud of how Western lived up to its Leathernecks nickname."