Ole Miss mascot ideas to go public

OXFORD – Members of the University of Mississippi will give input on about 10 semifinalists starting Monday in the process to choose a new on-field mascot.
The input will be channeled primarily through mascot.olemiss.edu.
Officials of Ole Miss decided to remove its Colonel Rebel mascot, which had been roaming the sidelines since 1979, in 2003 over assertions that the plantation-owner caricature was divisive and hurtful to the university’s image.
Colonel supporters, however, note he was probably modeled after the nattily attired Blind Jim Ivy, a black man who was one of the Ole Miss athletic teams’ most ardent supporters in the first half of the 20th Century.
Dr. Dan Jones, who succeeded Robert Khayat as chancellor last year, has emphasized that bringing Colonel Rebel back is not an option.
“That (selection) process is moving forward in a positive way,” Jones said.
Since students voted in February to take part in a process to select a new on-field mascot, about 1,000 ideas were submitted to the committee through its website and at forums held throughout the state.
Committee members have just completed a review in which the options were narrowed down to about 10 possibilities. From Monday at 8 a.m. through July 6 at 5 p.m., Ole Miss students, faculty, staff, Alumni Association members and season ticketholders will give input on those semi-finalists.
After that, committee members will compile input and select the best ideas for further development.
A company specializing in mascot design will render art and backstories on the candidates, which will then be placed online for polling by the same Ole Miss stakeholders.
“The final poll with three to five renderings will be right after school starts,” said Ty New, co-chair of the student-run mascot selection committee. After polling results are made public, a final selection will be made and announced, and mascot costumes will be made and people trained to play the character.
“Our goal has always been to have a mascot sometime in football season.”
Brian Ferguson leads a movement called “Save Ole Miss” that aims to keep Colonel Reb alive.
“Let’s look at the gift shops – the amount of Colonel Reb merchandise that continues to sell,” he said. “That speaks enough to say that there are a lot of people who want the Colonel back.”
Ferguson’s fear, however, is that fans of the Colonel won’t sacrifice to bring him back.
“Apathy runs amok. There are a lot of people who want to save the Colonel, but for some reason they won’t do anything about it,” he said. “What is going to be the tell-tale sign is whether people show up at football games. … I haven’t been to a basketball game since they (decided to) remove the Colonel from the merchandise in February or March, and I won’t be going to any football games.”
Although Ole Miss continued for years to license Colonel Rebel merchandise, it is changing the logo to a “historical” trademark and retiring it.
Curtis Johnson, a clerk at Campus Book Mart in Oxford, said even in the midst of the search for the Colonel’s successor mascot, customers continue to buy scores of items with the red-and-blue-suited, cane-toting gentleman.
“It’s still selling pretty well,” he said. “We haven’t really seen a change.”

Contact Errol Castens at (662) 281-1069 or errol.castens@djournal.com.

Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal