By Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – Colonel Reb is not in the running, but students at the University of Mississippi will likely voice their collective preference about having a new on-field mascot.
The Associated Student Body voted Wednesday to hold an election on Feb. 23 to indicate whether Ole Miss students would support development of a new mascot or prefer to have none on the sidelines during athletic events, as is now the case.
“I think that the students should definitely have the opportunity to vote on whether to adopt a new on-the-field mascot,” said ASB President Artair Rogers of Guntown.
The Department of Intercollegiate Athletics applauds the move.
“We definitely support a student-led effort to have a new mascot,” said Assistant Athletic Director Jamil Northcutt.
Colonel Reb, the university’s longtime Southern gentleman character, was retired in 2003 because of perceptions that he represented Old South elements from which the university was trying to distance itself.
That was announced by the athletic department, but while it was lauded by some key supporters, it was one of the most unpopular moves of the 14-year tenure of Chancellor Robert Khayat.
Critics of the decision say the mascot bears none of the racism attributed to it and that it was actually based on Blind Jim Ivy, a black Oxonian who attended Ole Miss games in the early decades of the 1900s wearing a three-piece suit, a dapper hat and a prominent white mustache.
The Colonel Reb Foundation quotes Ole Miss historian David Sansing on the subject: “The original Colonel Rebel emblem is a spitting image of Blind Jim Ivy, except for white skin.”
Rogers confirmed that the student vote will not include an option to bring back the old mascot.
“The administration does not want to revisit the decision of 2003,” he said. “We have to operate under those guidelines.”