Editorial: A bear? Really?

October 15, 2010 12:21:00 PM

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Sports channel ESPN has been airing a promotional commercial featuring Ole Miss and the failed student campaign to make Admiral Ackbar, a squid-headed "Star Wars" character, the new school mascot. 

 

We''re glad Ackbar didn''t make the cut. But at the same time we wonder how, given every choice under the sun and the input of every student, dues-paying alumnus and season-ticket holder, the school ended up with something as generic as a bear. 

 

Ole Miss retired Col. Rebel, the old mascot, back in 2003, and we applaud the school''s efforts to distance itself from Confederate symbols (and its segregated past). 

 

But a bear? That''s it? 

 

This is the Rebel Black Bear, the school mascot selection committee said. Black bears once prowled the north Mississippi woods including in Lafayette County, though they were far more numerous in the Delta. Now, not so much. Conservationists estimate about 80 are left in Mississippi. 

 

Ole Miss also points to the short story "The Bear" by William Faulkner, who lived in Oxford, and the origins of the Teddy bear with Theodore Roosevelt''s legendary Mississippi Delta bear hunt, to justify the choice. 

 

But a bear? Really? 

 

The bear was probably the best of the last three alternatives, among them, the Land Shark, which was a shark with legs; and Hotty Toddy, an attempt to personify the school cheer with someone who looks like an outcast from the Blue Man Group on steroids. 

 

Change is often hard to swallow, and we imagine the idea of a foam-filled black bear head lumbering along the Ole Miss sidelines will go down easier with time. 

 

But we feel like an opportunity was missed here, for the university to not only distance itself from the past, but set itself apart with something truly unique. 

 

Bears, after all, are as common as bulldogs.