"I can't imagine Ole Miss without the Colonel. It's like bread without butter. They just go together," said Clayton Cobler, a graduate of the University of Mississippi. He is among an apparently large number of Ole Miss fans who can't believe the school mascot has been retired.
In an announcement this past summer, Ole Miss Athletic Director Pete Boone said the 65- year-old mascot would no longer grace athletic fields and courts. It led to a nationwide search for something new.
A committee narrowed down 320 entries to three. What they came up with has been described as: a man riding a motorcycle, a man resembling Mr. Clean and a bearded athlete.
Originally, students and alumni were to vote this week on the three finalists, but a disappointed search committee has stopped the process indefinitely.
But that's only half the story. Normally when you would search for Colonel Reb on the internet, you would find sites about the history and legacy of the school. Now you find petitions wanting to bring back their beloved mascot.
"Ole miss is a spirit," said Cobler. "Colonel Reb is a part of that spirit."
But the controversary goes much deeper. Students have held rallies, alumni have threatened withholding contributions, and what is the school going to do about all that merchandise?
Tuesday, Ole Miss Chancellor Dr. Robert Khayat issued a statement saying:
"Admittedly, we should have handled the matter better. In hindsight, the timing and manner of the announcement added to the frustration."
So, why the change in the first place? The school maintains it was not a race issue at all, but rather to find a mascot that was young, energetic and representative of modern times.
A committee will meet next week to decide what further actions should be taken. Until then, Colonel Reb remains in retirement, at least officially. To his fans, he is still on active duty.