The annual Big Ten Conference Awards Ceremony was held on Monday, March 6 at the Dolby Digital Theatre in Los Angeles, California. In addition to announcing all-conference honors, the ceremony featured a new category: Best Mascot. From Boilermakers to Terrapins and Nittany Lions, to Badgers— the Big Ten has its share of uniquely beloved mascots. The Big Ten Conference initially announced the new category back in February and it was met with enthusiasm from athletes and coaches alike.
Criteria included personality, likability, and best dressed, which were all voted on by the Academy. The anticipation for this event was so high that producers decided to place it at the very end of the program, following the Big Ten Player of the Year. Caleb Swanigan, 2017 Player of the Year, said in his acceptance speech, “All right, let’s get this show on the road. I don’t care about my award. It’s just another piece of metal. What I really care about is that Best Mascot award.” At this point, the crowd was listless. Everyone was utterly unprepared for what was to happen next.
James E. Delany, Commissioner of the Big Ten, read through the nominees: Goldy the Gopher, Pete the Boilermaker, and Bucky Badger. All eyes were on him. As Delany opened the envelope, he appeared to hesitate for a bit, “And the award for….for best mascot goes to……” At this point, Brad Traviolia, Deputy Commissioner, walked on stage, briskly grabbed the envelope, saying “C’mon! Goldy the Gopher!”
At this announcement, the crowd erupted into cheers and the entire Minnesota basketball team made its way to the stage and Coach Richard Pitino began his speech. However, he was abruptly interrupted by freshman Amir Coffey who shouted, “Stop! There’s been a mistake! Bucky, you won best mascot. This is not a joke.” The confused crowd rose to a standing ovation this time, misunderstanding the mistake as the Gopher’s selflessness and admiration for Bucky and the University of Wisconsin. Eventually the crowd began to understand the truth.
Following the blunder, Delany explained its causation: “The ballot inside the envelope I was handed read ‘Minnesota Golden Gophers.’ Upon closer inspection however, the subscript said “Biggest Safety School.’”
In his backstage interview, Coach of the Year, Richard Pitino, described his emotions regarding the mix-up. “Yeah, it hurts, but I won’t be the first to admit that Goldy is a weakling compared to Bucky. The UW is clearly a superior learning institution and it’s reflected in their mascot.”
At press time parties were reported all over Madison and UW-Madison Chancellor, Rebecca Blank, was seen running down Langdon, clad in a “Fuck ’em Bucky!” t-shirt.
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