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Cheating Compromises ESPN Scholarship Contest

Penn State has a bot problem.

No, PS4RS. This article won’t discuss Karen Peetz. Earlier this month, ESPN launched its College Colors Day contest. Whichever university garnered the most votes would win $10,000, which ESPN would donate to the school’s scholarship fund.

Earlier in the week, Penn State held a (supposedly) unsurmountable lead over the Texas A&M. The Nittany Lions led the Aggies by more than fifteen thousand votes. These were the only two schools which earned more than twenty thousand votes. Mizzou, which was in third place, only had thirteen thousand votes.

By Saturday afternoon, no one could deny that the contest had been compromised. Penn State, as well as Texas A&M and Missouri, had fallen off the front page of the website. Nebraska, Oregon State and Wisconsin each received more than forty thousand votes overnight. How could this happen, considering Penn State’s huge margin just a few days before?

I checked news sites and blogs of these three schools, and found no other instance of students or sports writers promoting College Colors Day. Thus, we can rule out a grass roots campaign. The logical conclusion must be that someone(s) has rigged College Colors to guarantee that their school holds the lead, using hacking or computer bots to generate votes.

Penn State is now in sixth place, behind perennial football powerhouses Maine and East Carolina.

That’s right. The Maine Black Bears have ten thousand more votes than PSU. I don’t think that the state of Maine has a population that large.

Here are some other weird stats.


Bad news, Rob Bolden. Louisiana Tech, not Louisiana State, is the Bayou’s most favorite school. Also, apparently the St. Bonaventure Bonnies are more popular than Mizzou.

So where does this leave the Nittany Lions and the $10K scholarship? The truth is, I don’t know. A possible recourse would be shutting down the contest if ESPN violated federal contest law. In 2002, ABC (which owns ESPN) had to finish a contest for its drama Push, Nevada.

Pictures were taken around 1:15 p.m. Saturday afternoon.

About the Author

Doug Dooling, Jr.

I am a staff writer for Onward State. I graduated as a Nittany Lion with Honors in 2013. Now, I am back in Happy Valley to earn a degree at the Penn State Law. Outside of politics and government, my interests include college football, soccer, Irish history, and astronomy.


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