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Colonel Rebel vote: No fuzzy math here

By By Buddy Bynum / editor
October 12, 2003
Harper Lee, "To Kill a
Mockingbird" (1960)
While Gov. Ronnie Musgrove and challenger Haley Barbour traded jabs over the state's job gains, or losses, over the value of Washington, D.C. connections and mathematical equations related to budgetary matters, there was no fuzzy math last week on one subject:
Ole Miss supporters detested the two mascot options presented to them to replace Colonel Rebel.
Overwhelmingly, they protested by staying away from the online vote Ole Miss officials said would begin Wednesday and end Sunday. The vote did indeed begin on Wednesday, but by early evening Thursday the results were clear.
And the winner was not even on the ballot.
The old man is back, re-energized, rejuvenated and with a new lease on life parading through the tents and tables in the Grove to the delight of fans who treasure their nostalgia. It was an especially poignant moment, given the fact that Saturday was homecoming on the Ole Miss campus.
Online vote
Of about 40,000 people who could have declared a favorite in the online vote, something called "Rebel Bruiser" a younger, pumped-up version of the current colonel was leading with 2,080 votes when the plug was pulled. Rowdy Rebel,'' which resembled a musclebound version of the bald advertising icon Mr. Clean, had 344 votes.
For Ole Miss this whole episode has been something of a public relations debacle, a textbook case on the problems associated with trying to change an image that is enshrined in the Rebel psyche.
A lot of alarms went off, some of them evidently silent until Thursday.
Students voted 94 percent in favor of the current Colonel Rebel. Few alumni were willing to risk public ridicule by endorsing one of the proposed new caricatures. Athletic boosters closed their checkbooks. Some season ticket holders gave their tickets back. Whoa, now it was getting serious.
The university's athletic director and chancellor took a lot of heat and ultimately had the good sense to lay down their weapons in a battle they realized, belatedly, they could not win.
Like Lee at Appomattox, in hopes of one day reconciling the differences between friends and families, they surrendered.
No support
It is clear from the responses received and from general public discussion that there is no community support for either of the proposed mascots,'' Chancellor Robert Khayat said. Therefore, the matter is closed.''
More important to the teams than any mascot is the support of our Ole Miss family,'' Athletic Director Pete Boone said. I regret that this has become such a divisive issue. It is now time to move forward.''
Gee, Mr. Boone, that's a wonderful sentiment coming from the man brought the change up in the first place. How about a good ole plain "I'm sorry?" How about a "we goofed?" How about a "we listened to our faithful fans?"
With apologies to the memory of Harper Lee, it's obvious that Ole Miss supporters hold Colonel Rebel to the mockingbird standard, that is to say it's a cardinal (no pun intended) sin to kill one.
One of my friends compared the episode to that infamous marketing campaign years ago for the "New Coke." Remember that one … it fizzled about the time somebody tasted the product, but it did help create a terrific market for Coke Classic.
At least for now, Colonel Rebel is back. Classic.
He may eventually disappear from the scene at Ole Miss.
But not today.
And now that the Ole Miss mascot issue is sort of settled, isn't there a real election coming up soon?