OXFORD, MISSISSIPPI - Bring back the mascot. The grassroots effort to reinstate Colonel Reb, the former mascot of Ole Miss, has the green light to let Mississippi voters decide in 2012. All that's left is to collect the necessary 100,000 signatures.
"Initiative 37 has been officially endorsed and certified by the Mississippi Secretary of State," says Arthur Randallson, director of the Colonel Reb Political Action Committee.
He's the man leading the charge to bring back Colonel Reb, and says he has the power of state law behind him. Now all Arthur Randallson needs is 100,000 voter signatures. 20,000 must come from each of Mississippi's five congressional districts.
"In hand, we have 2,150," says Randallson.
The Colonel Reb Political Action committee has a plan to get the other 97,000 or so. They're setting up booths at Ole Miss's home football games
"Interest is just accelerating now, especially now that football season is on," he tells abc24.com.
Randallson is aiming to collect 1,000 signatures at each home game. The group is even getting political support.
"The Tea Party's endorsed us," says Randallson. "We expect another 20,000 to 25,000 from those people helping out."
But what do the voters think? None of the people we talked with were Ole Miss fans, but all of them said the same thing.
"It's part of the history," says Victoria Fleming. "The mascot should be brought back."
"I have no problems with him coming back," says Chad Carden, "and I'm a Mississippi State fan. When I heard they were going to take him away, I thought that was the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard."
Will people be willing to sign the petition?
"If they're a true Ole Miss fan, and if they're a Mississippian and believe in history and tradition they would," says Carden.
"I think it's a good idea," says Jennifer Levine. "If they let them do it and they get enough signatures, I think they should bring him back. I would sign it."
By state law, the committee has one year to collect those signatures. Their deadline is the middle of July 2012.
The current Ole Miss mascot is the Rebel Black Bear. That decision was made in 2010. Colonel Reb was removed as the school's official mascot in 2002.