The Ole Miss student body voted Tuesday to adopt a new mascot, replacing Colonel Reb, the grandfather-of-Yosemite-Sam looking gentleman and symbol of the Old South associated with Ole Miss athletics since 1938. The final tally passed by an overwhelming majority as 74.6 percent of ballots cast voted yes.
Since the Colonel was removed from the football stadium seven years ago, Ole Miss has been the only SEC school without a mascot. However, after the vote, the drought will end, once a 12-15 student mascot committee is chosen. With this vote should come a commendation to Ole Miss students for taking charge of the mascot replacement and moving on from what had become a deeply divisive symbol of the school. Now they've just got to make the correct selection among a bevy of candidates. And not kowtow to what will undoubtedly be lame suggestions put forward by whatever marketing company the university hires to float suggestions their way.
The early dark horse?
Try Admiral Ackbar, the rebel leader from Star Wars who famously screamed, "It's a trap," at the last possible moment. Already the Admiral, a native of Mon Calamari, which already sounds like it could be just down the road from Itta Bena or Yazoo City or Mississippi's other colorfully named towns, has picked up an early tide of support thanks to the Web site notrap.org and his past credentials as a leader of the rebel alliance. In fact, the Admiral has already hit the campaign trail, hustling for votes on Twitter, -- "I am eagerly awaiting on the forest moon of Endor for the results," the good admiral tweeted -- and garnering 1,400 followers on his Facebook page.
I can't wait until LucasFilms gets word of Ackbar's role and sues the students for appropriating his image.
Anyway, given that a student body selecting a mascot is a big deal, who should the committee consider? Fortunately I've got 10 nominees for you. But before I discuss those, let me go ahead and toss my support firmly behind one man, William Faulkner.
I first wrote that Faulkner should be Ole Miss' mascot in November of 2006. I included the idea in my first book, "Dixieland Delight," and later endorsed the idea in a 2007 column that you can read here. I rationalized as follows: Faulkner went to Ole Miss as a student, the university owns his home, Rowan Oak, and his Nobel Prize for literature, Faulkner played quarterback in high school, and, most importantly, the alums I've heard from all love the idea. It's impossible to do better than Faulkner.
Put plainly, Faulkner was a literary rebel, a man who refused to follow contemporary ideas of what a story should look like, and, as a result, millions of people know the state of Mississippi through his words. Are you telling me that a Faulkner mascot, a student dressed up in a tweed jacket, with a pipe in the corner of his mouth, a mustache, and a cane, wouldn't immediately become the most iconic mascot in the South? Maybe the entire country?
What's more, Faulkner actually encourages football fans to read -- and if you read message boards, the e-mails I get, or even the comments after these articles, who could be against that? -- and offers an indelible connection to the university's educational mission and, and this is pretty key, the year Faulkner died, 1962, was the last year that Ole Miss won a national title.
Erase the Faulkner Curse?
It absolutely, positively has to be Faulkner for Ole Miss mascot. Anything less is a joke. Which leads me to these further nominees.
1. The Flood
Ole Miss' original mascot was The Flood. It was replaced in 1938 by Colonel Reb. So, at a school that claims to love tradition, Colonel Reb was actually an interloper.
If you want to return to tradition and completely cut the legs out from underneath the Colonel Reb adherents, why not return to the most traditional mascot of all?
2. Cooper Manning
The famous "other" Manning brother, Cooper is a graduate of Ole Miss whose football career came to a close due to a neck injury. It was this injury that led Peyton to select Tennessee.
So restoring Cooper to his rightful place, the sideline at Ole Miss, might end decades of misery.
Either that or dressing up someone as Archie Manning's DNA might be the answer. The NCAA has too few double-helix shaped mascots.
3. Miss Ole Miss
The best slogan at Ole Miss: "We redshirt Miss Americas."
The story derives from when two future Miss Americas were on campus at the same time. So why not have a campus vote every year for the woman who most embodies the qualities of Ole Miss women? That is, she's really hot, smart, well-dressed, and everyone wishes they were with her.
Students remain engaged in the mascot process due to voting each year.
4. Ed Orgeron
For three primary reasons:
A.) He's already a pro when it comes to jumping around on the sideline.
B.) His go-to move, ripping off his shirt and swinging it above his head, is sure to inspire the hoi polloi
C.) Once probation hits at USC, he may well be unemployable anyway. He'll need the job.
5. Jake Brigance from "A Time To Kill"
Bonus: John Grisham is an alum.
Further Bonus: Brigance can make shooting unarmed men inside a courthouse with an M-16 seem heroic.
Quoth the Jake: "Close your eyes ... Now imagine she's white."
Given the SEC arrest rates, who needs a mascot who can make the players seem like good guys even when they're clearly guilty as hell?
Flim Flam Bim Bam
Ole Miss, By Damn!
6. A riverboat gambler
If this happens, students should riot.
My antipathy for the riverboat gambler cliche is well known and oft-stated, basically it makes no sense.
Because in today's South, a riverboat gambler isn't actually a risk taker, he's more likely to be your grandmother on a rotary trip to Baton Rouge or Evansville, Indiana.
Is there anything lamer?
Your move Ole Miss.
7. A Mint Julep
The only problem I foresee with this mascot is that it mistakenly suggests that alcohol and college football are somehow connected.
Plainly, that's not true.
(Wrings hands while thinking of the children.)
8. Whoever decapitates Hotty Toddy Man and presents his head at midfield
As anyone who has been to an Ole Miss game knows, Hotty Toddy Man was the single most uncomfortable graphic to ever grace an SEC jumbotron. Except for the time that Leslie "Les" Miles was asked for the final digit of pie and kept screaming, "Four!" over and over again until he passed out.
Hotty Toddy man existed to lead the famous Hotty Toddy cheer.
But instead he came to haunt the nightmares of all who saw him.
It's rare that public decapitation is the answer to anything -- ask the French -- but in this case I'm making an exception.
9. The Bear
Faulkner's greatest short story?
A fearsome mascot?
A connection to Mississippi's past?
While I'm in favor of Faulkner, and think he has to be the choice, a bear that was clearly connected to the Faulkner short story wouldn't be bad.
10. Colonel Thomas Sutpen
The anti-hero of Faulkner's greatest novel, "Absalom! Absalom!," he retains the Colonel connection, but his untimely end, slave ownership, miscegenation, and, you know, murder by a poor white man who squats on his land, might be a bit of a historical downer.
But at the end of the book, spoiler alert, the plantation house on Sutpen's Hundred burns!
So maybe this would work after all.
All of these nominees notwithstanding, it has to be William Faulkner, absolutely, positively has to be him.
Make this happen Ole Miss.
Your past is not perfect. In fact as Faulkner noted, the past is not even past, but Faulkner at Ole Miss is perfect.