Seven years after asking fans to embrace a new mascot, Ole Miss wants spectators to indulge a new creature on the field — a Landshark.
Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter announced in an open letter Friday that the landlocked predator will replace Rebel the Bear.
Vitter said the goal is to unveil the new mascot by the 2018 season.
He reiterated that name for the university’s athletics teams remains the Ole Miss Rebels.
The Rebels football team plays the Auburn Tigers Saturday and athletic director Ross Bjork said that the bear’s retirement is effective immediately meaning Rebel will not be present for the game.
The decision to oust Rebel the Bear follows a student government led poll where 81 percent of more than 4,100 respondents endorsed the Landshark as the school’s new mascot.
At the time, university officials said the vote was non-binding and advisory in nature.
A week later, the chancellor’s office made the announcement that Rebel the Bear was out.
“The results of the Landshark poll confirm the sentiments that Ross and I have heard since arriving on campus — that the Landshark and 'Fins Up' have become synonymous with the positive spirit and strength of our athletics program and the 'Never Quit' attitude of Rebel Nation,” Vitter wrote.
The Ole Miss Athletics Department will be charged in large part with developing and designing the mascot. They could also face the task of wooing traditionalists who favor Colonel Reb. That mascot, often likened to the caricature of a Confederate plantation owner, was retired from the field in 2003 amid the university’s efforts to distance the campus from Old South symbolism.
Vitter said stakeholders, including faculty and student groups on campus and past presidents of the Ole Miss Alumni Association have endorsed the move.