Ole Miss’s new mascot

For those who haven’t heard, my alma mater Ole Miss has a new mascot, a black bear.

bear mascots

A bear? In Mississippi?

Yes, or so they say. Biologists estimate the number of black bears in Mississippi at 50 (max). This, despite the high density of black bears a century ago — witness Teddy Roosevelt’s “saving” a black bear while hunting in Sharkey County.

The bear is also a reference to native son William Faulkner’s short story of that name — but Faulkner’s bear has a ferocious and growling personality when black bears tend to be shy and easily frightened. Great, just what Ole Miss needs — a scaredy-cat mascot.

The rest of the SEC must be trembling in their boots.

And personality is just one of the problems with this mascot “election” and “selection”. Here are some more:

  • The Administration says the bear was chosen by vote of students, alumni, faculty, and staff. However, only 13,000 or so votes were cast, meaning most either didn’t like any of the options or refused to have anything to do with a “rigged” contest. Col. Reb (the school’s mascot since the 1930s) wasn’t even one of the choices!
  • The Administration says Colonel Reb was too representative of the “Old South.” However, it’s really a stretch to see any of the three contestants — bear, land shark, and two “Muppet-like” creatures to be known as Hotty and Toddy — as prototypes of the “New South.”
  • The Administration says Colonel Reb made recruiting of African-American students difficult. However, even as far back as 1996, the Ole Miss faculty was 20 percent black, and in 2002, black student enrollment totaled nearly 13 percent, mirroring that of the nation itself.
  • The Administration says Colonel Reb is offensive. However, historians say the Colonel was modeled after a black man, Black Jim Ivy. Ivy was a fixture on the campus from 1896 until his death in 1955.
  • The Administration says the monikers “Ole Miss” and “Rebels” will remain. However, there is growing sentiment that they, like Col. Reb, will be brought to a slow (or swift) death. As one student was quoted, It doesn’t make sense to call ourselves the Rebels and have a bear mascot on the field.

The backlash against this change has already started (and only threatens to increase). A “Save Col. Reb” petition is out there, as is a “Save Col. Reb” Facebook page and a Colonel Reb Foundation. One alum has posted his plea on YouTube; a Col. Reb is My Mascot tribute video is available as well.

Count me in! Whatever it takes, we need to stand tough together to STOP this brick-by-brick eroding of our traditions. Without our nickname, our songs, our mascots, our flag, what’s to differentiate Ole Miss from any other public university in the nation?

Who’s the mascot for anyway? The students. And if the students are so solidly behind Col. Reb, so be it.

I don’t think any of us can count on the suggestion that, if the black bear fails to garner support, the Administration will have to reinstate Col. Reb. More likely, they’ll simply leave us mascot-less, the way we’ve been for too many years already.

But why should we force the students to fight this battle alone? Perhaps it’s time for alumni to join in — and, in this age of shrinking state funding, hitting the university in its wallet via a cutback on donations is the best way I know how.

So what do you think, Rebels? ARE YOU READY???

Col. Reb, Ole Miss

Save Colonel Reb!

Don’t Kill Ole Miss, Part 2

You know, I just hate it when people carp and complain and criticize without offering any suggestions on remedying the problem at hand.

Therefore, I’m going to continue the discussion I started the other day regarding Ole Miss’s mascot, or more correctly, the absence of a mascot.

Here are my suggestions to waylay the death of my beloved alma mater:

  • Bring back Colonel Reb. I’m NOT talking about that cartoony caricature of a colonel that was used most recently. I’m talking about a real, live Colonel Reb. A male student with some athletic ability who can rally crowds with lots of spirit, somebody with class and dignity who can represent this University wherever its athletic teams go. I’m talking about someone who can liaison between the cheerleaders, the band, the students, and the alumni. And I don’t care whether this person is white, black, pink, or green — he should bleed “red and blue”!
  • Colonel Reb’s attire. Cheerleader-type slacks, perhaps in gray with gold stripes down the sides of the legs, and a matching gray top (long-sleeved for cold weather, short-sleeved for hot) with gold military-looking embroidered thin stripes across the chest.
  • Spirit. Admittedly, I haven’t been to a football game in years, but do we have anything to take the place of our Confederate Flag? I understand the administration banned it, claiming it was “offensive.” Personally, I don’t see it as anything more than a symbol of Ole Miss, not something of “white oppression.” Why, it’s no more offensive than Mississippi State snubbing Golden Retrievers in favor of the English Bulldog! But if fans can’t wave the flag, what can we use — red and blue pom poms maybe? Or red, white, and blue hand towels to twirl? Or those annoying Vuvuzela horns used at soccer games? Or maybe somebody can invent a noisemaker (like a kazoo) for us?
  • Songs. Okay, when did we eliminate “Dixie” from our song-list? Talk about taking away everything! Sigh. Since we no longer can play/sing this rousing song, perhaps it’s time to initiate a new tradition. How about the playing/singing of our Alma Mater before games or at halftime? I didn’t know until I graduated that we even had an Alma Mater! The words are beautiful; so’s the melody. It could be very moving if everyone learned the words, rose to their feet, and joined in together.

Here’s the thing, people. I’ve heard and read far too many complaints that spirit at Ole Miss is down, that those attending games are lifeless, that we have nothing tangible to bind us together, generation to generation. That’s unacceptable.

Tradition is a big part of life. Greek organizations have their traditions; religious denominations, countries, universities, and even families have theirs. Alums should be able to go back to their university and feel “right at home,” knowing the old traditions are intact and open to adopting some new ones.

I’ve said it before — people don’t choose or reject a university based on its colors, mascot, or traditions. They learn to embrace and love those traditions, often before they even go off to kindergarten. And if they can’t stomach them, they choose another place to further their education. That’s the beauty of freedom.

Just a tiny suggestion…

It’s traditional for the Notre Dame Band to play the Alma Mater for students and the team after a home football game.

Students link arms and sway while singing, the alumni get teary-eyed, and the team members remove helmets and proceed to the student section, where they join in the song.

It’s unfortunate this tradition can’t be continued during away games.

I understand that the cost of transporting some 400 Band members, plus their instruments and uniforms, to every away game would be prohibitive. But how about sending a trio of trumpet players (or even one?) That way, those students and alumni attending the game, along with the team, could still enjoy a bit of tradition even far from home.

After all, the cheerleaders and leprechaun accompany the team to away games. Why not let one Band kid? It would be an honor to represent the University and the Band — perhaps it could be a rotating honor among senior students — and it could serve as a recruitment tool, too.

Obviously, one person can’t put on a halftime show or even provide sufficient sound from the sidelines to overcome stadium noise. Nor can we expect an opposing team’s band to play Notre Dame’s songs with the same passion as our musicians. But wouldn’t it be grand hearing a trio of Band members harmonizing, or even a solitary trumpet playing, the haunting tune to “Notre Dame, Our Mother?”

At Notre Dame, there’s cohesion among the students, the team, and the alumni. What better way to provide continuity of tradition than to send even a tiny part of the Band to away games?