Learn about What a Mascot is, What they do, The Different types of Mascots, and be better informed about the entire Mascot Selection Process.
A Question and a Promise
“When are we going to get a new mascot on the field? Will the students have any say so in determining what comes next?”
When Artair Rogers was elected to serve as ASB President in February, 2009, these questions were not on his radar. His platform had nothing to do with the mascot, and it was not on his agenda. But after his inauguration in April, 2009, he quickly learned these questions were on the minds of students. By the summer of 2009, just a few months into his term, Artair had heard them over and over. So had Peyton Beard, the newly appointed ASB director of athletics and president of the Ole Miss Cardinal Club.
At that point, it had already been six years since there had been an on-field mascot, and Ole Miss was the only school in the SEC without an identifiable on-field character to represent its teams. The mascot was a regular topic of conversation on campus and in the pages of The Daily Mississippian. There was a lot of chatter among students about whether it was time to develop a new mascot to represent today’s energy and momentum at Ole Miss. Some students had even begun meeting informally to brainstorm about mascot ideas. It was clear momentum was gathering to take some action.
With the slogan “A Student Voice for a Student Vision” as its promise to the student body, the ASB knew that the mascot issue would not remain unresolved. As a movement for a new mascot began to gain strength, ASB leadership wanted to assure the student body would have a voice in the process to develop whatever would come next. Student leaders determined that they should include the mascot issue in early conversations with the new chancellor as soon as he began work in July, 2009.
Welcome to Ole Miss
“So, when are we going to get an on-field mascot for the Rebels?”
It might not have been the first question he wanted to answer, but it’s one several students posed to Dan Jones his first few weeks as chancellor at Ole Miss. While the mascot issue was not on his agenda to tackle in his first year — let alone his first months in office — Chancellor Jones acknowledged the mascot issue would not lie dormant forever. Because he believed school spirit was primarily a student issue, if the students wanted to assure student participation and take the lead in developing and proposing a new mascot, then the Chancellor promised to support student efforts.
But Chancellor Jones made clear to student leaders that the University would not revisit the 2003 decision to remove the prior mascot from the field. Chancellor Jones also made clear that any new mascot would represent the Ole Miss Rebels; the University did not intend to change its athletics colors or team names.
Chancellor Jones and the students agreed that any student-led process should be transparent and inclusive, and that student leaders should make certain that the student-body supported moving forward. Chancellor Jones and student leaders also realized that neither the students nor anyone else at the University had any experience in developing a mascot, and any student group would likely need professional advice. So Chancellor Jones made a commitment; if the students decided to move forward, he would offer them the support of the Ramey Agency, a Mississippi-based, full service marketing, advertising, and branding firm to advise and guide the students through an inclusive, creative process following a “best-practices” model.
In light of these conversations, in the Fall of 2009 ASB leadership began to consider next steps. But the ASB was fully engaged in other projects and issues, and the ASB was not certain if the student body was ready to take-on the mascot issue.
Student on a Mission
As ASB leaders considered next steps and dealt with other, more pressing issues, Sophomore Koriann Porter took action. When she had attended a retreat for a campus organization in the spring of 2009, the mascot issue had been a major topic of discussion. Koriann and the other students agreed it was time to do something about the mascot. It was time to discuss the issue in a positive way; a way that would encourage interaction among the different groups at Ole Miss.
With help from a cross-section of students, including several who had participated in the spring retreat, Porter devised a petition to address the subject and create dialogue. The petition asked one simple question: “Do you want a new on-field mascot for the Ole Miss Rebels?” On Aug. 23, 2010, Porter with help from several other students began collecting signatures in support of the petition. By Nov. 30, more than 10 percent of the student population had signed the petition in favor of fielding a new mascot.
Based upon these signatures, at the end of the fall semester Porter and other ASB leaders proposed a bill in the ASB Senate to put the issue before the students in the form of a vote. In light of the facts that Ole Miss had gone without an on-field mascot for seven football seasons and that the University did not intend to revisit the 2003 decision removing “Colonel Reb” as the mascot, the ASB Senate resolved to ask the students whether they would “support a student-led effort to develop and propose a new on-field mascot for the Ole Miss Rebels.”
The Students Vote To Move Forward
In the days leading-up to the vote, campus discussion reached a fever-pitch, and grass roots support coalesced around one central theme: the students wanted to assure a strong student voice in developing a new mascot to represent today’s Ole Miss Rebels.
In the Feb. 23, 2011 referendum, more than 3000 students voted. An overwhelming 74 percent voted a resounding YES in support of a student-led effort to develop and propose a new on-field mascot that represents the spirit and energy of today’s Ole Miss Rebels.
Selecting a Mascot Committee
Immediately after the vote, ASB President Artair Rogers convened an ad hoc committee of student leaders to select the group of students who would lead Ole Miss through the process of developing and proposing a new mascot. This ad hoc selection committee consisted of two student athletes representing the Student Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) and the student leaders who serve on the Student Leaders Advisory Committee (SLAC), which is composed of the leaders of the comprehensive student organizations on campus (e.g., ASB, Student Programming Board, IFC/Panhellenic/NPHC, RHA, Student Media, etc…).
Ninety-seven students applied to serve on the Mascot Selection Committee by the March 11, 2009 application deadline. Over Spring Break, the members of the ad hoc committee of student leaders evaluated all 97 applications, and decided to interview as many as 45 of the applicants.
Over the weekend of March 26-28, the ad hoc committee of student leaders interviewed applicants and, and on March 29, 2010, they selected a committee of 17 students to serve on the Student Mascot Committee.
The Mascot Selection Committee is led by two co-chairs, Ty New, a junior business administration major from Olive Branch, and Margaret Ann Morgan, a freshman journalism major from McComb. The committee includes three freshmen, three sophomores, six juniors, one senior, and three graduate or professional school students. Twelve of the student committee members are from Mississippi, and five are from other states.
The Mascot Selection Committee Begins Work
The Mascot Selection Committee began work that very night, meeting with ASB President Artair Rogers and Peyton Beard, president of the Cardinal Club, who charged the committee and formally “passed the baton” to the new committee.
Attached you will find the resolution passed by the Alumni Association in support of the student led process to select an on field mascot to represent the Ole Miss Rebels. Below is a letter from Alumni Association President Charles Clark.
The Alumni Association Board of Directors met with representatives of the Mascot Search Committee (MSC) and the Ramey Agency (the outside professionals guiding the MSC) during our spring meeting on April 10. The MSC outlined the process, discussed the inclusive focus group sessions they are having, and took all of the questions from the directors, including many of the former presidents of the Alumni Association, who were present. We are confident that they are moving in the right direction in proposing a new on-field mascot for our Ole Miss Rebels, and let me emphasize here that we will remain the Ole Miss Rebels! To that end, the Board of Directors of the Alumni Association voted to adopt the attached resolution.
We encourage all interested parties to participate in the process by visiting the MSC website at www.mascot.olemiss.edu and providing your ideas on a new mascot.
Charles C. Clark
President, Ole Miss Alumni Association
OXFORD, Miss. – On Wednesday (Oct. 6), the process to select a new mascot for the Ole Miss Rebels will move forward with the release of a poll including depictions of the remaining three options.
Stakeholders, including alumni, students, faculty, staff and season ticket holders, will once again be asked for their opinions on the concepts. The poll will be located at www.mascot.olemiss.edu.
Mascot selection committee co-chair Margaret Ann Morgan, a sophomore from McComb, said the committee spent a great deal of time reviewing the potential concepts.
“Since the top five Ole Miss Rebel on-field mascot concepts were identified, the committee has been hard at work with the mascot professionals developing graphic depictions of each,” she said.
Earlier in the selection process, focus groups made up of different groups within the Ole Miss community identified a number of characteristics that were vital to a new mascot. According to those groups, the ultimate mascot should unify the Ole Miss community, have a Mississippi connection, be unique, adapt from the Grove to the game, fit the Ole Miss culture, project a proud image, be timeless and not trendy, have the ability to be active and appeal to children.
Based on those values, the committee eliminated two of the concepts. The Rebel Lion was eliminated because, despite a positive response to the play on the word “Rebellion,” the committee felt that there was not a strong enough Mississippi or Ole Miss connection, according to a statement from the committee.
The committee also eliminated the Rebel Stallion concept due to the problematic logistics of having a live horse in the stadium or Grove.
“Though there was great enthusiasm for a live horse to lead the Ole Miss Rebels, we soon realized that the horse would in reality be present for a short time at the beginning of each football game,” the committee stated. “Also, there are limitations concerning the horse functioning among the extreme crowds in the Grove. These facts would require a companion costumed horse mascot to be visible at the games, other sporting events like basketball games where horses are not allowed and at special events.”
The idea of a costumed mascot horse did not have strong support from the students or in the focus groups. Based on the earlier poll, the Rebel Lion and Rebel Stallion were the fourth and fifth most popular concepts, so the committee was comfortable eliminating those options.
Depictions of the remaining three options – the Rebel Land Shark, the Rebel Black Bear and Hotty Toddy — will be released for public review as a part of the poll on Wednesday, and the committee said it has taken more time than expected to ensure the designs presented are respectful of Ole Miss culture. In fact, based on input from all groups within the Ole Miss community, the committee said it spent a great deal of time over the past few months discussing, reviewing, tweaking and re-thinking the Hotty Toddy concept, which has evolved from a pair of characters into one mascot.
“This concept has a strong tie-in to Ole Miss traditions; it is unique, and it has the potential to unify our fan-base,” the committee said. “However, it is important that the ultimate concept be proud and in no way silly, so we have taken more time than anticipated to make sure the concept shown is as strong as it can be.”
Both Morgan and Ty New, a senior from Olive Branch and co-chair of the committee, said they could not be happier with the success of the mascot development process, which began this past spring with a review of more than 1,000 suggestions from the Ole Miss community. From that list, the committee submitted 11 concepts to the Ole Miss community for input, and over 13,000 students, faculty, staff, alumni and season ticket holders responded to the first poll, with more than 96 percent of those participants responding positively to at least one of the concepts.
“It is our greatest desire during this selection period that all entities are aware of our process and remain well-informed of each decision being made,” New said. “We thank everyone for their patience and support and are looking forward to the end result.”
For more information on the selection process or committee, visit www.mascot.olemiss.edu.
We are overwhelmed with the participation from the first poll. We received 13,084 responses from students, faculty, staff, alumni and season ticket-holders. See below the breakdown of each group:
The polling was calculated on a Likert scale using the following polling system:
|A||I love this idea.||5|
|B||I like this idea.||4|
|C||Not my favorite but I could accept this idea.||3|
|D||I have problems with this idea.||2|
|E||I very much dislike this idea.||1|
The original 11 mascots were a direct response from polling, focus groups, website input, and opinions of the committee members. Of these 11 mascots, the five above were the top five from the poll. Let us note that we have heard your voice regarding the muppet reference in Hotty and Toddy. If they make it to the next poll, the Ole Miss family will have an opportunity to see and vote on the graphic depictions for the pair. We recognize that verbiage has caused confusion; we hear you and we will make this right.
At this point our mascot professionals are creating graphic depictions for each of the five ideas above. These considerations would include clothing, expression, personality, etc. Other important issues are also being considered such as trademarks, particulars involved with housing/keeping wild animals, and other challenges to sort through. When all of this is accomplished, and the committee has given careful consideration to all of the information before them, we will present a number of these top five candidates in another poll for viewing and preference selection by the Ole Miss family. Between two and five of the mascot candidates the committee considers to be viable options will be included in this next poll.
It is our greatest desire during this selection period that all entities are aware of our process, and remain well informed of each decision being made. We thank you for your patience and support and are looking forward to the end result.
ESPN Spot on Ole Miss to Debut Tonight
During Boise State, Virginia Tech Game
OXFORD, Miss. – University of Mississippi students leading the search for a new Ole Miss mascot are excited about an ESPN spot about Ole Miss that debuts tonight during the Boise State-Virginia Tech game set to broadcast on ESPN at 7 p.m. (CST).
The spot, which was filmed this summer on campus, highlights Ole Miss student creativity and the inspirational quality of sports by focusing on the student group that campaigned for Star Wars character Admiral Ackbar to be the new Ole Miss mascot. Ackbar, who was not one of final 11 choices put forward by the committee this summer, is the leader of the Rebel Alliance in Star Wars VI: Return of the Jedi.
Mascot committee co-chair Margaret Ann Morgan, a sophomore from McComb, said the network approached the committee about the spot this past spring. Committee members saw it as a good way to alleviate some of the confusion surrounding the mascot selection process, she said.
“We know that ESPN is a well-respected voice in sports, and we saw the spot as both a professional and humorous way to deal with some of that confusion,” she said. “The final product absolutely highlights Ole Miss and its students in a positive way by showing a wide range of students including the students who came up with the Ackbar idea.”
Ty New, a senior from Olive Branch and mascot committee co-chair, encourages Ole Miss fans and alumni to visit the ESPN website later this week to view the longer, four-minute video that includes picturesque scenes of the Oxford Square and Ole Miss campus.
“There are so many cool scenes of Oxford, and it is a great representation for the nation to see what Ole Miss has to offer,” he said.
UM Dean of Students Sparky Reardon said, “We realized that ESPN is the most powerful voice in sports television, and they came to campus to meet with us on the concept before any filming was approved. We were also aware of ESPN’s investment in the SEC and concluded that they would produce this with Ole Miss’ best interest in mind.”
The spot provided a way to finally put the Ackbar movement to rest and to alleviate confusion over the intense media coverage the idea received last spring, Reardon added.
The ESPN spot is part of a series based around the theme “It’s Not Crazy, It’s Sports.”
In the meantime, the selection process for the new Ole Miss mascot continues. In July, the committee polled Ole Miss students, alumni, employees and season ticket holders and then narrowed the mascot choices down from 11 options to five: a land shark, a bear, a horse, a lion or two characters named Hotty and Toddy (listed in no particular order). The student committee is now working with design professionals to develop graphics for the options, and they will unveil the strongest of those ideas in the coming weeks. At that time, stakeholders will have an opportunity to express their views on the options through another poll.
The poll results will be made public later this fall, and the mascot selection committee will review the results and make a final choice on the new mascot. For more information on the selection process, visit http://mascot.olemiss.edu/
Dear Rebel Community,
We, as a committee view the selection of a new mascot as an opportunity for the entire Ole Miss community to create meaningful and lasting positive traditions that will further write the book on the Ole Miss Rebels’ enduring history. We share a common goal of securing the best representation of an on-field mascot that is distinctive, unique, and sensitive to Ole Miss traditions, values, and our culture. We are seeking a mascot that depicts pride, courage and competitive spirit, as well as one that can stand the test of time. The primary and unbendable criteria in selecting a new on-field mascot is the will of the Ole Miss student body, the faculty, the alumni, the Oxford community, and the State of Mississippi. As this student led process begins, we expect and demand that it continues to be just that, student led. As a committee it is our sole obligation to continue to open avenues of idea sharing so as to hear from all who offer well developed and constructive ideas. Continuing to maintain a campus of deep rooted and rich tradition starts and ends with all of those affected.
We have created this website in order to assist us in achieving this vision. We aspire to make this process as transparent as possible. While this site is constantly under development, we hope that you will explore the pieces currently in place and utilize the “Got Ideas?” page in order to make your ideas known. We ask each individual that wishes to take part in this initiative to use this website as the official mode of communication with the Mascot Selection Committee. It is an honor to help lead this student initiative and we will do so as efficiently as possible. We aspire to hear your story and your passion for Ole Miss and we hope this mascot instills a newfound sense of energy that will unite each of us for generations to come.
The Mascot Selection Committee
Members of the Committee:
Co-Chair Margaret Ann Morgan (Freshman, Journalism)
Co-Chair Ty New (Junior, Finance)
Camp Best (Graduate Student)
Paris Buchanan (Junior, Finance)
Rachel Burchfield (Graduate Student)
Kegan Coleman (Freshman, Public Policy)
Matt Daniels (Junior, Marketing Communications)
Nathan Dye (Sophomore, Public Policy)
Evan Kirkham (Freshman, Public Policy)
Garrett Mcinnis (Law Student)
Jakeshia Moore (Junior, Marketing Communications)
Urhobo Ohwofasa (Junior, Mechanical Engineering)
Gabby Rangel (Sophomore, International Studies)
Lauren Rowe (Senior, Biochemistry)
Adam Stewart (Junior, Exercise Science)
Morgan Taylor (Sophomore, Psychology)
Jess Waltman (Freshman, English)
If you are a member of the media and are looking to contact the Mascot Selection Committee, this is the place for you. If you are looking to submit your ideas or offer your opinions to the Mascot Selection Committee, please do not utilize this page.
To make contact with the Committee, please provide your name, contact information, location, and your news outlet in an email to firstname.lastname@example.org