What's Next in Ole Miss Mascot Change Process?

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The Commercial Appeal (Memphis, Tennessee)


OXFORD — It's been a week since Ole Miss declared the landshark was in as its on-field mascot and Rebel the Bear was out.

With that announcement came some questions. Questions which Michael Thompson, Ole Miss' senior athletic director for communications and marketing, provided some answers to.

Before moving onto the landshark, what happened to the Rebel the Bear uniform? Was it thrown in the trash? Burned? Kept in hiding?

"It'll be in archive," Thompson said.

What, and where, exactly is archive?

"It's a secret place at an undisclosed location," he explained. "We have a lot of things there. I think one of (Johnny Vaught's) old desks is there. Sort of relics."

The university's athletic department is in charge of designing and developing the new mascot, which won't be unveiled until before the 2018 season. The first step in that creation is getting the right people in the room and making sure they're all on the same page.

Thompson said he'll assemble a "landshark launch team" of eight-to-12 people and the group will have its first meeting next week.

"You have to take people who are going to wear this and former mascots, you have to get their opinion," Thompson said. "Because you don't want to make something that doesn't work for what it is intended to do.

"It's not just a Halloween costume. There's a lot of form and function to it. I met briefly with some of the mascots yesterday and one of the questions that was asked was, 'Are we going to have hands?' That's an interesting question that you just don't think about when you're not in that world."

There are also different ways Ole Miss can go with its mascot. Is it supposed to be more Disney-like and cartoonish, sort of like Rebel the Bear was? Or is it going to be an athletic mascot that does stunts, which would require a lighter suit, similar to some NBA mascots?

Once that's decided, Thompson said, it'll take the design and go from there.

"It can go in a million different directions," Thompson said. "We're going to make sure it goes in the right direction, that's the key. In a strategic direction."

What about the mascots? Not the uniforms, but the people who dress up in them. When the landshark was adopted as the mascot, Rebel the Bear's "retirement" was announced effective immediately.

So Ole Miss will be without an on-field, or on-court, mascot for a few months. The people behind mascots will work on other crowd and cheer things.

As for how they're handling the transition?

"They're awesome," Thompson said. "They've been through a lot. When you think about it, a change like this is a big deal."

Along with the mascots, others likely to be involved in the creation process are those who are impacted by the change, such as the cheer squad, production and creative teams, marketing.

There's also the merchandise component to this too. There will have to be the development of officially licensed trademarks, which will supplement the current "fins up" and landshark licensing program Ole Miss already has.

"There are a lot of things at play," Thompson said. "You have everything from literally a costume, which is a lot more sophisticated than people think. It's a pretty intense process. We'll probably do some design here, some base design here then bring in somebody, a company that manufactures these type of things. It has to be a functional thing, it's not just a flat piece of artwork."

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October 21, 2017


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