OXFORD, Miss. (AP) -- After all that, it's a bear.
It has been more than a decade since the University of Mississippi began stripping away its images of the Old South. Confederate battle flags -- the "Stars and Bars" -- were first to go. Next was mascot "Colonel Reb," the goateed Southern planter who cheered on the Rebels from the sidelines since 1979.
After seven years and plenty of bickering, his successor was named Thursday: "Rebel Black Bear" won 62 percent of the vote in a final poll and will become the new face of the school's athletic programs.
Tradition dies hard in Oxford, where tens of thousands of fans turn out in ties and sundresses on fall Saturdays for elaborate tailgate parties. An unofficial motto is: "We may lose a game, but we never lose a party."
Picking a replacement became a matter of statewide import.
In the end, the smiling black bear inspired in part by longtime Oxford resident William Faulkner won out, defeating two other nominees: the "Rebel Land Shark," based on the "fins up" hand motion started by late Rebel football player Tony Fein; and the "Hotty Toddy," a gray human-like character that aimed to personify a school cheer.