Colonel Reb is long retired, and Rebel the Bear is soon to follow. Now Landshark will lead Ole Miss into the future.
University of Mississippi Chancellor Jeff Vitter announced Friday that the school will retire the black bear mascot that has roamed the sidelines in Oxford since 2010 in favor of a new Landshark mascot set to debut for the 2018 football season.
— Jeff Vitter (@UMchancellor) October 6, 2017
Vitter cited "unanimous" support for the change after surveying a variety of groups across the campus, which has embraced a tradition that began in 2008 with the defensive unit on the football team.
According to a brief history of the tradition on the school's website, linebacker Tony Fein — a U.S. Army veteran — initiated the tradition of defensive players celebrating by putting up a hand in the shape of a shark fin. The gesture caught on and has since spread to other Ole Miss sports, along with the accompanying "Fins up!" battle cry.
It became popular enough that a shark will soon replace Rebel the Bear, which was adopted in 2010 after the university phased out the old Colonel Reb mascot. Though the colonel has been gone from the sidelines at athletic events since 2003, he is still evident on merchandise. And Vitter assured the university community Friday that the nickname itself isn't going anywhere.
"I want to state unequivocally that we are — and always will be — the Ole Miss Rebels," the chancellor wrote. "And I am asking all Rebels to unite around our new Landshark mascot."
There was no immediate comment from Jimmy Buffett.