National News

Oct 14, 2010 1:41 PM by Letitia Walker

Ole Miss Gets a New Mascot

OXFORD, Miss. (AP) - The new mascot of the University of
Mississippi Rebels will be a black bear, officially replacing the
goateed Southern gentleman "Colonel Reb" who was banished from
the sidelines almost seven years ago.
Thursday's unveiling of the "Rebel Black Bear" is the latest
move in the school's effort to distance itself from symbols of the
old South.
The announcement came after a campuswide vote in February and
months of polling. The bear beat out two other finalists, the Rebel
Land Shark and something called the "Hotty Toddy," an attempt to
personify the school cheer. The bear received 62 percent of the
vote in the final poll.
"I know there was a lot of people emotionally invested in
Colonel Reb and everybody might not completely agree with the bear,
but I think everyone can be proud of how our students went about
the process," said Sparky Reardon, the university's dean of
students.
Margaret Ann Porter, a co-chairman of the student mascot
selection committee, said the bear was recommended because it had a
Mississippi connection, would appeal to children and would be
unique to the Southeastern Conference.
Ty New, the other committee chairman, said everyone in the
university's community - including faculty, students, alumni and
season ticketholders - had a voice in the selection.
"The fact that we were completely transparent through the
process makes this a credible choice," New said in a news release.
That doesn't mean there wasn't griping along the way. In 1997,
Ole Miss ended the waving of Confederate flags at sporting events.
Last year, the band stopped playing the fight song, "From Dixie
With Love," to discourage the fan chant, "The South will rise
again."
And some of the colonel's faithful sought to derail the search
for a new mascot by staging protests earlier this year and in the
last few weeks by gathering signatures to make Colonel Reb one of
the choices.
"I think it's hypocrisy. I think the fans of Ole Miss still
want Colonel Reb. We have a petition with 3,500 signatures of
students who still want Colonel Reb as their mascot and that's the
way it should be," said Brian Ferguson, a 2007 graduate who is
also a member of the Colonel Reb Foundation.
Athletics Director Pete Boone acknowledged that the vote "was
an emotional process" and his department would begin the lengthy
process of implementation, including marketing and communications.
"It's been a passionate topic and it's often evoked an
emotional response - right or wrong. Change is certainly difficult.
But I appreciate the passion from our people. They say indifference
is the worst emotion out there, and I don't think we're guilty of
that," he said.
The black bear is connected to Ole Miss through one of Oxford's
famous residents, Nobel Prize-winning novelist William Faulkner,
who penned "The Bear." In it, Old Ben stands as a symbol of
pride, strength and toughness. The tale of the "teddy bear"
originated with the story that President Teddy Roosevelt refused to
shoot a bear on a Mississippi hunt in 1902.
Earnest Harmon, a freshman fullback from Macon, said he's fine
with the bear.
"A lot of the guys on the football team liked the landshark
just because it was the sign our defense made after a big play, but
the bear is fine, too," Harmon said.

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