Saving Colonel Reb

Colonel Reb was created in 1937, concurrent with the nicknames “Ole Miss” and “Rebels” being adapted for the University of Mississippi’s athletic teams.

Serving as the spirit icon of Ole Miss for over 70 years, it is alarming what the beloved mascot and logo has endured during the last decade. The University of Mississippi administration’s fight against the Colonel has been complex and unnecessary.

In the summer of 2003, students, alumni and fans were shocked when then-chancellor Robert Khayat and athletics director Pete Boone decided to strip the mascot from the school. Boone’s reasoning was the mascot “doesn’t fit anything we do.”

At no point did student or alumni input factor into the decision to get rid of the mascot.  However, this episode was not his first attack against Colonel Reb. In 1997, during his first tenure as athletics director, Boone introduced a goofy, muscular, football helmet-wearing version of the mascot. Students ridiculed this decision, as they formed the Rebel Student Union to combat the change.

The students would prevail, and the steroid version of the Colonel was soon rejected; and Boone would leave as athletics director  But upon his return as athletics director in 2002, the banker-turned-AD decided to get rid of the Colonel for good.

The Ole Miss family was stunned, and an estimated $50 million in donations was lost. The Colonel Reb Foundation (CRF) was formed during the summer of 2003, just as Colonel Reb was officially removed by the administration. Through alumni input and donations, the student-led CRF launched a Grove lapel sticker campaign. To date, over 250,000 Rebel fans have put on the “Colonel Reb Is My Mascot” stickers on gamedays. It became apparent the administration was not listening, so the CRF spearheaded an ASB vote on the matter.

In September 2003, a record number of voters stood in line for hours to let their voice be heard. Over 94 percent of the students voted to bring Colonel Reb back. Outside the Student Union, satellite news trucks from Memphis and throughout Mississippi broadcast the live results.

The administration then introduced a new mascot contest.  But thanks to the CRF, fans ridiculed the administration’s “Mr. Clean” vs. “Rowdy Rebel” mascot contest, and Khayat cancelled it. The Colonel Reb Foundation then commissioned a mascot company to produce a new Colonel for Ole Miss fans.

This replacement would fill-in until Colonel Reb was returned. In 2004, “Colonel Too” arrived in Oxford with his own unique style and mannerisms. The kids and fans seem to love him just the same. The university allowed the CRF mascot to attend athletic contests, but only in the stands. He entered with a ticket bought by the non-profit foundation.  But in 2009, athletics department officials began forbidding the Colonel to enter home sporting events.

The love of the goateed icon remains as strong as ever, despite the mascot being banned from the stadium, Colonel Reb-emblazoned merchandise stripped from merchandise, and the eight-decades-old logo demoted to the “college vault.”

The CRF’s student chapter, the largest student organization at UM, is committed to the cause, as evidenced by the signatures on last year’s petition for the Colonel’s restoration.

A total of 4,160 petitions were delivered to current chancellor Dan Jones on April 28, 2011. With new leadership at UM, the desire to have Colonel Reb reinstated as an official mascot and logo continues.

The CRF believes that Colonel Reb is the only mascot for Ole Miss, despite a fraudulent “student-led” poll in 2010 that introduced “Rebel the Black Bear” as the administration’s new on-field mascot.   The Colonel is a lovable, unique, recognizable and historic tradition of Ole Miss.

The Colonel loves nothing more than to bring smiles to kids faces, shake hands with alumni and cheer the Rebels to victory. Hotty Toddy, Go Rebs!

Brian Ferguson – Exec. Director, Colonel Reb Foundation