OXFORD, MS - A new twist in the fight over the Ole Miss mascot.
The effort to bring back Colonel Reb is going statewide, all the way to the capitol if supporters have their way. They want every voter in Mississippi to have a say.
In 2002, Colonel Reb was removed as the school's mascot, and just last year replaced with a black bear. Even though it's been almost a decade, the controversy is still fresh.
Supporters of Colonel Reb have a new petition circulating to make the mascot part of state law.
"Coming to Ole Miss, Colonel Reb was a big deal, a big, huge mascot," says Ole Miss junior Matt Staub. "I finally get here, and he's not on the field anymore."
"He's basically associated with Ole Miss," adds senior Latrice Fox, "so much so, it would be kind of a tragedy to lose him as the mascot."
"I think he should come back," says sophomore Austin Pruitt. "I'm glad there are people trying to bring him back."
Two of those people are Arthur Randallson and Butch Harris.
"It means much more than just the mascot of one particular university," Randallson says. "This is about the heritage, tradition and culture of the entire Magnolia State and beyond."
"I've been a fan of Ole Miss all my life since I was a little kid," says Harris.
The men are part of the Colonel Reb Political Action Committee, a group whose sole purpose is to reinstate Colonel Reb.
"We're working on a petition and visiting businesses and people all over. We just started gathering signatures. We've got 12 months," says Harris.
The committee is circulating a statewide petition, trying to get 100,000 of Mississippi's registered voters to sign it.
"We will never stop until Colonel Reb is officially restored as the official and only mascot of Ole Miss," says Randallson.
"Some people think it's racist for him to be here," says Fox. "That's kind of another reason why they took him away, but not everyone feels like that."
She's one of 4,200 Ole Miss students who've signed the petition. She says it's a case of Colonel Reb fans versus the school.
"They are looking at it from any kind of liability aspect, but we're looking at it as we love Colonel Reb and want him to represent our school," she says.
And if people like Fox, Randallson and Harris have their way, the final say will be up to Mississippi voters.
"This petition would amend the constitution of the state of Mississippi to enable Colonel Reb to be permanently and officially the mascot of Ole Miss," Randallson states.
A spokesperson for the university says while the mascot issue is a passionate one, Ole Miss is focusing on moving forward and winning championships.
Colonel Reb supporters are hoping they'll have 100,000 signatures by the 2012 legislative session. If not, they say they'll keep at it until 2014.
This Saturday, July 23, 2011, the Colonel Reb Political Action Committee is kicking off its campaign with a big event in Holly Springs.