Colonel Reb still enlists support, controversy as Ole Miss vote nears
By Linda A. Moore
February 14, 2010 Thousands of University of Mississippi students have enrolled, matriculated and graduated without ever seeing an official mascot. In 2003, Ole Miss officials retired Colonel Reb, its bearded Southern gentleman, leaving the school with no costumed character on the sidelines at athletic events.
However, a student vote on Feb. 23 could change that. The only question on the ballot asks students to say yes or no to a student-led process to develop a new mascot.
Some students want another choice -- the return of Colonel Reb. Others say keep the Colonel in your heart and put a new mascot on the field.
"I feel that most students are supporters of Colonel Reb. We are the Ole Miss Rebels and Colonel Reb embodies that," said senior Hannah Loy, 22, leader of the Colonel Reb Foundation, established in 2003. "We don't want a new mascot, we want our mascot back," Loy said.
That's not an option, said senior Peyton Beard, 22, director of athletics for the Associated Student Body student governing board. It's a new mascot or none at all.
"Without a mascot we have nothing that can identify us," Beard said.
In a conference with an elephant, a war eagle and a commodore, Ole Miss is the only Southeastern Conference school without a mascot.
"We're not trying to take anything away from Colonel Reb. We want something that can be on the field and enhance the game-day environment," said Beard, president of the Cardinal Club, a student spirt organization. Many decisions were made by previous administrations that won't be revisited and retiring Colonel Reb is one of them, said Chancellor Dan Jones.
"Most people associated with the university are interested in moving forward to an on-the-field mascot that will unify the entire Ole Miss community," Jones said.
Ole Miss opened with 80 students in 1848. Today, there are about 18,000 students system-wide, including about 14,000 on the Oxford campus. Colonel Reb first appeared in cartoon form in the 1930s and stepped onto the field as as a costumed mascot in 1979.
Meanwhile, with the vote looming, Loy said she was unable to send messages to her organization's Facebook group and she's suspicious as to why. "The administration has used manipulations and deceptions in the past regarding this issue," she said. "We wouldn't be surprised if they used their power to contact Facebook directly on this matter. I wouldn't put it past them."
Officials with Facebook did not respond on Friday to a media inquiry. Jones denied Loy's accusation. If students decide they want a new mascot, the administration will facilitate the process but not attempt to influence it, he said. "We'll offer them advice, resources and support in any way that we can," Jones said.