October 6, 2010 12:51:00 PM
Step aside Colonel Reb. The next University of Mississippi mascot could well be a fierce black bear, a toothy land shark or a character in a full-body muscle-suit.
But so far, the choices to replace the gray-haired Southern planter in a floppy hat are drawing lackluster reviews among some students and alumni as die-hard fans of Colonel Reb are fighting to get him back on field.
Images of the choices were released by the student mascot selection committee Wednesday as final polling began for a sideline successor to the colonel. University students, employees, alumni and season ticketholders can cast votes in the poll that runs through Oct. 12.
The process of finding a new mascot began this year with a student vote and the choices were recently narrowed to the three. After polling ends, the committee will review results before announcing the winning concept.
Asked if there was excitement on campus about the vote, Sedonnah Jamierson, a sophomore from Richmond, Va., said "not really because everyone still wants the mascot to be Colonel Reb."
But Ole Miss has been angling for years to move away from the Old South imagery evoked by Colonel Reb, seeking a newer mascot to reflect a growing university and a newer age. Back in 2003, officials said the aging gent should no longer represent sports teams.
The search for a new mascot ended for lack of interest in 2003, and die-hard Colonel Reb fans are still fighting to keep him. But the university has said that''s not an option, and its licensing as a university trademark ended this summer.
The Rebel Black Bear is an imposing figure, but the committee said in a release that it also would appeal to children, and the Rebel Land Shark is a sharp-tooth, athletic-looking creature. The shark is based on a tradition begun by the late Rebel football player Tony Fein, who used a "fins up" hand motion, the committee said.
The third option, the personification of the school cheer, Hotty Toddy, would be a character in a gray body suit with built-in muscles and a stern-looking face mask.
Jamierson said she likes Hotty Toddy.
"I''m pretty much going with what doesn''t look stupid. That helped me make my decision," she said.
But others say they are indifferent to the new choices.
Cortez Moss, who was the Associated Student Body communications director last spring, said he doesn''t have a mascot preference so far.
"It''s not that I don''t like any of the choices," Moss said. "I think it''s difficult to pick a personification that actually depicts our experience at Ole Miss in conjunction with Mississippi as a whole."
Members of the Oxford-based Colonel Reb Foundation have been standing in front of the student union trying to get signatures to place Colonel Reb on the ballot.
Forrest Pace, a junior from Knoxville, Tenn., who is the foundation''s student representative, said 3,500 signatures have been collected thus far.
"We''re try to preserve Colonel Reb and the traditions that go with him. We don''t want to cheapen the students'' voice by choosing a mascot with no history," Pace said.
Pace said the foundation has 11,000 student and alumni members.
Jeffrey Yoste, a 1988 Ole Miss graduate, said he''ll reluctantly participate in the vote.
"I thought we had a good mascot to begin with," Yoste said. "I would have preferred to have seen Colonel Reb be updated to be more appealing, rather than be thrown out with the bath water."
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