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Colonel Rebel lives to fight again

By By Will Bardwell / staff writer
Oct. 10, 2003
As astonishing as a Hail Mary touchdown pass, Colonel Rebel has survived at Ole Miss.
The University of Mississippi announced late Thursday that its search for a new mascot has been called off, and the embattled Colonel Reb will remain the university's symbol but will not return to athletic events.
On Tuesday, the university released two possible replacement designs and put them before Ole Miss students, alumni and supporters in an online popularity contest. Rebel Bruiser, a muscle-bound version of Colonel Reb, and Rowdy Rebel, a bald football player in a tattered uniform, were met with cold disbelief from many of the Ole Miss faithful.
Out of about 40,000 people eligible to vote, only 2,400 had voted by Thursday evening when the search was canceled. Rebel Bruiser held a 2,080 to 344 lead.
University Chancellor Robert Khayat, who along with Boone has been catching heat on the subject for months, also pointed to the low turnout in the poll as a reason for ending the search.
The decision to change Colonel Reb, a caricature of an aging white man sporting a goatee and cane, drew heated debate.
On Tuesday, the Ole Miss chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People held a rally in support of the administration. Now, NAACP vice president C.J. Rhodes said he is disappointed by Boone and Khayat.
Brian Ferguson, president of the Colonel Reb Foundation, hailed the announcement as a victory.
For weeks, the Colonel Reb Foundation has distributed thousands of red and white stickers reading, "Col. Reb is my mascot!" Ferguson said his group went through 12,000 stickers at the Sept. 27 football game against Texas Tech, and have ordered 15,000 for Saturday's homecoming game versus Arkansas State.
Ferguson and Rhodes both said the failed search for a new mascot was due in part to the unpopular Rowdy Rebel and Rebel Bruiser designs.
Ferguson said he believed the pressure from both sides this week led to Thursday's decision.
Colonel Reb's future
For now, Colonel Reb will remain a visible presence at Ole Miss, even though the mascot will not appear at sporting events. Colonel Reb has mingled with fans in the Grove before home games in Oxford, even while the debate surrounding his future raged.
Even Mike Lester, who submitted the Bruiser Rebel design from a caricature of Colonel Reb that he drew two years ago, said he sympathizes with Ole Miss fans who resented the proposed change.
Khayat, who is likely to remain a target of criticism, said he hopes angry feelings will not mar Saturday's homecoming game.