The changing face of Ole Miss: A look back at the university’s mascots

In 1929, “The Flood” officially commenced with Ole Miss mascots, which remains as the most recent in a lengthy series of mascots. Tony the Landshark was unveiled on Aug. 18 at a gathering with supporters known as Meet the Rebels Day. The fresh representation of the University of Mississippi is expected to adorn tents, cups, stickers, and fan merchandise this season.

Before 1929, the team suffered from a lack of support due to the absence of a university-backed mascot and name. They were referred to as “The Magnolia Tigers” or “Wampus Cats,” and even in the 1920s, they were known as “The Southerners” and “The Mighty Mississippians.” In 1893, they were called “The University Men” or “The Oxford Boys” by various newspapers and fans.

The administration settled on “The Flood” after considering numerous suggestions from fans and university personnel, and then established a selection committee by 1929. Nevertheless, the university was prepared to finalize a mascot choice.

Benjamin A. Guider, an attorney and judge from Vicksburg, submitted an application for the endorsement of “The Rebels” in a write-in contest organized by The Daily Mississippian, as there was an increasing discontent with the name. Prior to 1936, the university, supporters, and press referred to the team as “The Flood.”

His recommendation emerged victorious, and the establishment of a Confederate character ensued.

Over the following 70 years, the Rebels established themselves as a well-known and familiar presence among the people of Mississippi.

During Curtis Wilkie’s time at the university from 1958-62, the designated symbol was not Colonel Reb, despite him being an Overby Fellow and holding the Kelly G. Cook Chair of Journalism.

Wilkie remembered, “During that time, we didn’t possess an official mascot.” “A person dressed as a Confederate soldier portrayed a character and guided the football team onto the field, but they didn’t hold the title of a formal mascot,” he explained.

Ole Miss football has sparked controversy due to the Confederate symbolism linked to their official mascot throughout the years. According to Wilkie, Colonel Reb was established and officially embraced by the university sometime after his departure in the late 1970s.

In 2003, the university administration, headed by former Chancellor Robert Khayat and athletics director Pete Boone, decided to retire the Colonel Reb mascot. Despite not having an official mascot, the university continued to be known as the “Ole Miss Rebels” for the following seven years.

Wilkie said, “They decided to abandon him, so they moved — once aligned with slavery and the Confederacy — Miss Ole decided that Reb Colonel was an inappropriate symbol for the administration.”

In 2010, instead of conducting a write-in campaign, the university organized a competition for its next mascot, offering three preselected choices: Hotty Toddy, the Black Bear, and the Landshark, marking the third occurrence of such an event in history.

The Black Bear Rebel, also known as the Reb Colonel, became the mascot of the university for the next seven years, winning 62 percent of the student vote. However, it never quite achieved the popularity or lasting presence.

Wilkie stated, “The Bear was essentially turned down,” reminiscing about the years when Rebel fulfilled the role of the mascot. “Numerous individuals believed that there was no connection between the Bear and Ole Miss.”

In 2010, the students of the university chose the Landshark to represent them on the football field. This decision was made through a referendum conducted by the Student Body Association, led by President Kevin Dion III. The same three contenders had been listed for the mascot, and the students made their choice in the fall of 2017.

Micah Ginn, associate athletic director for Sports Production and Creative Services, stated, “The Landshark has become synonymous with the Rebel way in a spirit that Ole Miss has never achieved.”

Since the official announcement and vote in 2017, Ginn’s administration has been working to solidify the personality and appearance of the new mascot.

Ginn expressed, “We have been working with various companies to comprehend Tony’s personality — how he keeps the connected game audience, what he does, and what he looks like, especially kids.”

In 2008, Fein participated in football for the university following his one-year service in Iraq as a member of the U.S. Army. It was additionally disclosed in early August that Tony had been given the name Tony Fein in honor of the deceased Tony Fein when he was presented to the Ole Miss community. Tony the Landshark made his debut in the Ole Miss community in early August.

Tony was given his name as a tribute to him due to Fein’s contribution in bringing the Landshark to the campus. Fein introduced the phrase “Landshark” and its corresponding gesture of “fins up” to the football team in his 2008 season.

Ginn expressed, “The Landshark’s organic growth over the span of 10 years initiated with Fein, and he is the reason why the new mascot ultimately possesses enduring strength.” “It exemplifies how the positive mindset and guidance of an individual can genuinely transform the image of a university.”