By Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal Oxford Bureau
OXFORD – The Colonel Reb Foundation has gone on the road with its message of support for the former University of Mississippi mascot.
A new billboard on Highway 6 just west of Oxford depicts Colonel Reb, clad in baseball pinstripes, batting the black bear that was chosen as Ole Miss’ new mascot over the fence. The sign exclaims, “Colonel Reb … Forever! Louisiana Black Bear … Never!”
Rebel Black Bear was chosen last year to replace the Colonel, a caricature that many Ole Miss fans found lovable but others saw as racially insensitive. Administrators pulled Colonel Reb from the sidelines of Ole Miss games in 2003.
Howie Morgan of the Colonel Reb Foundation said the bear mascot is just as doomed as previous mascot-replacement efforts.
“I have talked to people who are absolutely against Colonel Rebel but who still believe the Black Bear will never make it onto the field,” Morgan said. He insisted that even university polling “shows a vast majority of Ole Miss fans, alumni and current students believe the mascot should be Colonel Reb – period.”
Michael Thompson, senior associate athletic director for marketing and communications, said the plan is still to debut Rebel Black Bear sometime in 2011, but the development process is more involved than it seems.
“Our costumes aren’t even ready,” Thompson said. “We’re still doing recruiting and other things in the process that most people don’t think about.”
Morgan says the billboard reinforces the Colonel Reb Foundation’s commitment to restore the Colonel as the official mascot.
“Our fans, our supporters and our donors are in it for the long haul, so we’re not worried about what the university administration wants to do,” Morgan said. “We’re sticking with it.”
Thompson, meanwhile, insists Rebel Black Bear will debut this year, either in baseball or football season.
“It depends on logistics – whether we have the right person in the costume,” Thompson said. “We will probably have non-athletic event appearances, at a school or a hospital or something of that nature, before the first athletic appearance. It’ll be widely known before it happens.”
Contact Errol Castens at (662) 281-1069 or firstname.lastname@example.org.