Michael Contegni/Staff Photographer Baxter hugs a fan at a recent basketball game. Baxter the Bearcat was crowned champion of SUNY Mascot Madness 2014, just slightly beating The College at Brockport’s Ellsworth Eagle in the final round of the bracket-style competition.

Baxter the Bearcat is the champion of the 2014 SUNY Mascot Madness competition after edging out The College at Brockport’s mascot, Ellsworth Eagle, in the final round.

Binghamton University’s mascot narrowly achieved victory after accruing 27,481 votes versus Brockport’s 27,264 — a difference of only 1 percent.

The tournament, which began on March 11, featured mascots from the 44 different SUNY campuses.

On his way to the final round, Baxter defeated University at Albany’s Damien the Great Dane, SUNY Adirondack’s Eddie Rondack, Mohawk Valley Community College’s Mo Hawk and SUNY Cortland’s Blaze Dragon.

Supporters could cast their votes on the SUNY website and, once the fourth round of voting began, could also get bonus votes by sharing the poll link on Facebook and Twitter. According to the website, this year’s edition of the contest drew 33 percent more votes than last year’s.

The BU Zoo played a large role in mobilizing campus to help Baxter. Andrew Loso, the co-founder and co-president of the group, went around on Green Day Fridays with Baxter to encourage students to vote.

In addition to quarter-sheeting and sharing the poll on Facebook, they also involved BU President Harvey Stenger to help the cause.

“We actually got up to his office, and we took some action shots of him posing with Baxter,” said Loso, and a junior double-majoring in history and Spanish.

According to Ryan Yarosh, director of media and public relations at BU, the victory was well-deserved.

“Winning the title of New York’s favorite mascot is an accomplishment we should all be proud of and showcases the school spirit I see on display each and every day at Binghamton,” Yarosh wrote in an email.

Maxwell Morgan, the coordinator of digital engagement for SUNY, said the web traffic was “a prime opportunity to illuminate Binghamton University, amongst other campuses.”

Morgan also acknowledged that the online nature of the competition made cheating a possibility. However, he explained that his team took precautions to fend off any illegitimate votes.

“Our system only actually counts votes that are from unique IPs in sync with legitimate cookies,” Morgan wrote in an email. “So, scoring updates to reflect these adjustments were made both during the contests and at the end of the contests. This resulted in more than 10,000 total votes being thrown from the competition in total.”

He added that he manually sorted through the voting logs, searching for patterns that would indicate cheating as well as looking for votes coming from falsified, or disguised, IP addresses.

Loso said the win goes beyond just the trophy and bragging rights over other SUNY schools.

“The idea of the mascot definitely goes above and beyond that animal,” Loso said. “It’s really a symbol of why we love our campus and what it means to us.”

He added that there are no plans to settle for just one championship, and that Baxter will be ready for a repeat in 2015.

“I think it’s something we want and that the students really appreciate,” Loso said. “I think that these good feelings are something that we want to bring back. We’re going to be full force next year.”