JACKSON, Miss. — University of Mississippi students voted Tuesday for the school to pursue a new mascot to replace Colonel Reb, the goateed Southern gent banished from the sidelines nearly seven years ago as the school continued its move away from symbols of the Old South.
The university's Associated Student Body released the results of the online election after voting ended at 5 p.m. CST.
"This wasn't about Colonel Reb at all. This is a new body of students. This vote is about deciding that we need a new personification of what a Rebel is," said John Kaiser, the Associated Student Body's deputy attorney general of elections.
Students were asked to vote "yes" or "no" on whether they support "a student-led effort to develop and propose a new 'on-field' mascot to represent the Ole Miss Rebels." A "no" vote meant the school would have remained without a mascot.
The school has more than 18,000 students, but only 3,366 votes were cast. The referendum passed with nearly 75 percent of the vote.
It's been an issue fraught with significance for the students, alumni and fans of the university located in the Deep South, where many consider football the ruling sport.
Ole Miss will remain the Rebels, but Colonel Reb won't be back on the field.
The university has taken other steps in recent years to throw off what many perceive as lingering reminders of a Confederate past. Last year, the band stopped playing the fight song, "From Dixie With Love," to discourage fans from chanting, "the South will rise again." In 1997, the school ended the waving of Confederate flags at sporting events.
But not everyone is happy about the decision to move on from Colonel Reb.
"I'm extremely disappointed. I do think Colonel Reb is getting a bad rap," said Hannah Loy, a senior political science major and a member of the Colonel Reb Foundation.
Loy said her generation should be allowed to define issues of race and school spirit.
"I think the older generations need to stop pressing their feelings about race and what happened in the past on those of us who weren't even alive then," Loy said.
The Colonel Reb Foundation, a group formed in 2003 when the mascot was dropped, had bought advertisements in the student newspaper in hopes of winning a "no" vote on the proposal.
Koriann Porter, liberal arts major who started the petition initiative that led to the vote, said she's hoping students will be able to choose a new mascot by the end of next fall's football season.
Collins Tuohy, a recent graduate interviewed a few days before the vote, said her parents recognized the need for the change when they attended the school.
"My dad was an athlete and my mom was a cheerleader. They saw firsthand that the flag and Colonel Reb were having an effect on people," she said of Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy, who are depicted in the Oscar-nominated film, "The Blind Side."
Tuohy said when she was involved with the Student Alumni Council, there was more of a move by older alums to push for a new mascot.
Associated Student Body President Artair Rogers said a student mascot committee will be selected to develop and propose a new mascot. He said he would present a plan to the Associated Student Body Senate and Ole Miss Chancellor Dan Jones next week.