JACKSON Miss.— The University of Mississippi has taken another step to reduce the visibility of its old mascot Colonel Reb, which could soon become a collector’s item on merchandise.
After Aug. 31, merchandising will be scaled back significantly for the caricature of an Old South goateed gentleman that served as the University of Mississippi mascot for decades. The mascot was banished from the sidelines nearly seven years ago as the school continued its move away from symbols of the Old South, and students voted to search for a new mascot last month.
The university has asked Collegiate Licensing Company to place Colonel Reb in its College Vault Program. There, he’ll join other university emblems, mascots and images from around the country that are regarded as historical trademarks produced only for special or commemorative events.
Ole Miss holds the trademark for Colonel Reb, but currently there are numerous licensees of the image, including Nike Inc.
Joe Hutchinson, vice president of Collegiate Licensing Company, said only a select few of those licensees will have access to the image. The rest have been told to stop producing merchandise after August, he said.
Hutchinson said no decision has been made yet on which companies will be allowed access to the logo.
“All of this is designed to make way for the new mascot that students are involved in creating over the next few months,” said Clay Jones, director of contractual services for the university.
Last month, the student body voted to officially begin the search for a new mascot to succeed Colonel Reb at the Oxford-based campus. Some fans of the old mascot opposed the election, saying it should also include an option to restore Colonel Reb to the field.
The next step in the student-led initiative is to choose a committee to oversee the selection process, said Associated Student Body President Artair Rogers. He said he’s received more than 100 suggestions for a new mascot, ideas ranging from a bear to a bird.
“I’ve been getting about 10 e-mails from people a day, minimum,” Rogers said. “You have a strong push to see a new mascot during next football season.”
Rogers said there’s a lingering appeal for the colonel from alumni and current students because he was on the field for more than two decades. He said many people on campus still wear clothing with the logo.
Jones said the administration had already told campus stores to stop ordering T-shirts, hats, flags or other items showcasing the colonel.
Still, it could be months even years before retailers across the country run out of Colonel Reb material that’s already in stock, Jones said.
“Eventually at some point, Colonel Reb will be less visible. It will not be as prominent as it is now,” Jones said.
It’s not clear how much of a money-maker Colonel Reb has been for the university in recent years.
Clay and Hutchinson said the licensing company doesn’t track sales on individual images or marks. But Clay said the material bearing the colonel’s image only made up a small percentage of the licensed-merchandise revenue.
“Really, a lot of retailers are not carrying as much as they used to,” Clay said.
Naomi Simmons, who works at University Sporting Goods on the Square in Oxford, said there was a run on Colonel Reb merchandise after the school vote.
“People came in the store and were buying things off the shelf like crazy. They were buying five or six pieces each. Usually they only buy one or two,” she said.
But Brandon Gilbert, manager of the Hibbett Sports in Flowood, a city located more than 100 miles from the university, said he’s seen no spike in Colonel Reb’s popularity in the wake of the vote.
“Right now, I probably have maybe two shirts with him on it. It’s selling the same as it always does,” Gilbert said. “I don’t think anybody knows he’s not going to be on anything after Aug. 31.”
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