ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.
MARY LOUISE KELLY, host:
And I'm Mary Louise Kelly.
It's not often we get to mention William Faulkner and cheerleaders in the same sentence, but those are two vastly different inspirations for a new mascot at Ole Miss. Voting is on to replace Colonel Rebel, who was deemed racially insensitive and lost his official mascot status back in 2003.
For more, we're joined now by Ty New. He's a senior at Ole Miss, and he's also co-chair of the mascot selection committee.
Hey, Ty. How are you?
Mr. TY NEW (Student, University of Mississippi): Just fine. How are you?
KELLY: We're great here, thank you. So I understand you are down to three mascot finalists. What are they?
Mr. NEW: Yes, ma'am. We're down to The Rebel Black Bear, The Rebel Landshark and Hotty Toddy.
KELLY: And I mentioned the origin of a couple of these - cheerleaders and Faulkner. Tell us, just briefly, you know, what the inspiration is for these three that have made the shortlist.
Mr. NEW: Sure. Well, here at Ole Miss, it's a lot about tradition, and we're really proudful(ph) of, you know, our Southern customs and everything. So starting with the bear, you know, we love our Faulkner down here. He was a resident of Oxford. So he's really close to everybody. So he wrote a story called "The Bear," which Old Ben was a bear in his short story. So that's a good connection, also. The actual story behind the teddy bear concept was that Teddy Roosevelt that was in Mississippi on a bear hunt, and he refused to shoot a bear. So that's where the actual teddy bear concept comes from. That's why we have teddy bears. So...
KELLY: And then Hotty Toddy?
Mr. NEW: Hotty Toddy, I don't know if you know what Hotty Toddy is. It's our biggest cheer, and it's also a way of just greeting Ole Miss fans, like if you see somebody at an airport that has an Ole Miss shirt on, you just say Hotty Toddy. And that means, you know, I'm from Ole Miss, too. So the biggest draw about the mascot Hotty Toddy, he would be really athletic and can do a lot of cool stunts, which is based off of some old Ole Miss cheerleaders who really started the whole trend of mascots being able to do really acrobatic stuff.
And then The Landshark, it's the most organic, really, from Ole Miss because we had a player with the name of Tony Fein who passed away last year, but they started calling the defense Landsharks. And so that was kind of a way to get the defense pumped up. And they would hold their hand to their forehead in a shark fin-type thing, and that would mean fins up. So whenever we make big plays on defense, you can see the crowd doing fins up. And we'll play "Jaws" music, and there's a lot of stuff that goes along with the Landsharks. And the crowd really loves it, and it gets everybody pumped up.
KELLY: Okay. So three finalists, all with close connections to the hearts of Ole Miss fans. And speaking of Ole Miss fans, we should mention, before they get too upset, that the sports teams will still be called The Rebels. This is an issue of appearances that you're sorting through, the mascot on the sidelines and what...
Mr. NEW: Yeah, exactly. It's a...
KELLY: ...that would look like.
Mr. NEW: That's one of the main things we try to stress, because we do hold all of our traditions so closely.
KELLY: But does it sidestep the issue a little bit? I mean, the word rebels could be construed by people as a reference to the Confederacy.
Mr. NEW: True. And - yeah. But I think if, you know, if we do whatever this new mascot is, I think it more preserves rebels because it takes a little heat of that issue, if that makes sense.
KELLY: Not really. Walk with through that.
Mr. NEW: Well, I mean, I - we've been - we're always going to be the Ole Miss Rebels. And I just feel like if, you know, we've been trying to get rid of a lot of these symbols. But if we get a new mascot, I feel it would kind of take the heat off that, and we can always still remain the Ole Miss Rebels.
KELLY: But the actual symbol out there running around will be a Landshark, a Black Bear or Hotty Toddy?
Mr. NEW: Yeah, exactly. But he'll still - you know, he'll have rebels across his chest, or he'll be named Rebels, or something like that. So it's pretty easy that we can still be the Ole Miss Rebels.
KELLY: All right. Well, we wish you luck. May the best mascot win.
Mr. NEW: Thank you. I appreciate it. Thanks for having me.
KELLY: We've been talking with Ty New. He's a senior at Ole Miss, and he's co-chair of the mascot selection committee.