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Ole Miss Picks A New Mascot: Rebel Black Bear, Rebel Land Shark, Or Hotty Toddy

A few months ago, NPR reported the University of Mississippi -- Ole Miss -- was almost done with its seven-year search for a new mascot, a replacement for Colonel Rebel.

NPR's Mark Memmott, whose son "was a huge Star Wars fan as a kid," enamored of Admiral "It's a trap!" Ackbar, was happy that a handful of students were in favor of picking the fish-like Mon Calamarian -- who, incidentally, was a rebel commander in his own right.

He even created an unscientific poll. So far, 5,075 readers (roughly 94 percent) said they would vote in favor of making Admiral Akbar the new Ole Miss mascot. For comparison, 330 said they wouldn't.

Well, the real vote has commenced in Oxford, Mississippi, and, alas, Mark is ineligible. According to theUSA Today, "you can't vote if you're not a student, part of the faculty, an alumni or a season ticketholder." (If you are eligible, you can vote here.)

There are three finalists, Ty New, the co-chair of the Ole Miss Mascot Selection Committee, told NPR's Mary Louise Kelly: The Rebel Black Bear, The Rebel Landshark, and Hotty Toddy.

According to New, The Rebel Black Bear was inspired by famous Oxford resident William Faulkner's Old Ben, from "The Bear," a short story in Go Down, Moses; and President Theodore Roosevelt's 1902 hunting trip to Mississippi, where he refused to shoot a bear.

The Rebel Landshark? New called it "the most organic from Ole Miss." It's a nickname for the school football team's defense, started by the late linebacker Tony Fein.

If you're an Ole Miss grad, Hotty Toddy needs no explanation, apparently. It's a salutation among students and alumni.

"If you see somebody in an airport that has an Ole Miss shirt on, you just say, 'Hotty Toddy,' and that means, 'I'm from Ole Miss too,'" New said.

The search for a new mascot was brought about by complaints that the Ole Miss Rebel mascot was anachronistic and, to some, offensive. According to New, students and teams at the University of Mississippi are "always going to be the Ole Miss Rebels."

Here's how he explained that to Kelly:

And here's the selection committee's official explanation:

First, we are and will continue to be the "Ole Miss Rebels." This process is simply about creating a new on-field mascot for all of us to enjoy. Our University's familiar name "Ole Miss" and team name "Rebels" as well as our colors "red and blue" are not being changed. In fact, we hope that the new mascot will allow all of us to further celebrate everything that makes us proud to be "Ole Miss Rebels."

Second, it's time to move forward. this process is not about eliminating old traditions but creating new ones. Our former mascot was taken off the field seven years ago, and we, the current students, have never enjoyed an on-field mascot. No matter how you feel about the removal of our formal mascot in 2003, we hope you will help us develop and embrace a new mascot to lead today's Ole Miss Rebels.

Voting closes at 5:00 p.m. CT on Tuesday, Oct. 12.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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David Gura
Based in New York, David Gura is a correspondent on NPR's business desk. His stories are broadcast on NPR's newsmagazines, All Things Considered, Morning Edition and Weekend Edition, and he regularly guest hosts 1A, a co-production of NPR and WAMU.