Colonel Rebel may have disappeared from the sidelines at Ole Miss games several years ago, but there are many Rebel faithful who still show their support for the vacated mascot.
This fall, as Ole Miss officials continue to work on introducing a new mascot to the public, the Colonel will be seen a lot around town and in the stands of Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.
Tuesday is the deadline for companies to stop producing his likeness on materials and that deadline has placed the sales of merchandise with Colonel Rebel’s figure on it at an all-time high.
Local retailers who make and sell T-shirts seem to be the biggest benefactor in the decision to halt production of Colonel Rebel materials. Last weekend, when students returned to Oxford and Ole Miss, one retailer said his sales just on Colonel Rebel T-shirts increased 40 percent.
The deadline, in essence, has made the Colonel more popular than ever.
“I think people know that he is about to be gone and the sales have definitely increased,” said Mike Tatum, owner of the Oxford T-Shirt company. “We are selling T-shirts with Colonel Rebel on them and will be through the fall. Everyone should know that there is a limited supply out there once production stops and the shirts with his likeness are going to go fast.”
Tatum, like several apparel owners in Oxford, also produces shirts. He routinely sells the Colonel to other retail stores, but that will change on Wednesday. According to Clay Jones, the Director of Human Resources and Contractual Services at Ole Miss, manufacturers such as Nike or Adidas have to stop production by midnight on Tuesday to comply with the ruling set six months ago. Apparel companies sell their products to places such as Wal-Mart, Hibbett Sports and Dick’s, just to name a few, and it’s retailers who have been asking for a greater amount of these items since the deadline was set.
Jones said Ole Miss has no control over retailers meaning they can sell products such as Colonel Rebel T-shirts until their stock runs dry. No new production will be allowed by the university after Tuesday and those that don’t comply would face fines that are levied along with the help of the Collegiate Licensing Company or CLC.
All apparel companies have to work with CLC, and the school, to get a new products into the marketplace. Jones said CLC works with 11 out of the 12 schools in the Southeastern Conference as well as 85 percent of the schools in the BCS. Almost all of the time, the wholesalers and producers comply with the contractual agreements set in place meaning once the merchandise has been produced and the deadline goes into effect, no other product can be created until Ole Miss decides to re-introduce it to consumers.
Jones said the Colonel Rebel is a part of Ole Miss’ history and his likeness will be placed into the CLC college vault license program which allows the school to use it at a later date as part of a vintage product line.
“The university still views Col. Rebel as a part of our history. He is special and unique,” Jones said. “We realize that there is a lot of stock with his likeness out there right now. We helped create this atmosphere with the deadline and that was done so that we could help those that produce these products and have been in good standing get their products manufactured and sold.”
According to Jeff Busby, the co-owner of University Sporting Goods, the sale of Colonel Rebel T-shirts prior to the deadline was around 3 percent. Sales have made a mascot that was living in obscurity into a hot ticket item and made his likeness as popular as the script Ole Miss that is also printed on various apparel items.
“It’s been a very popular item over the last two months. A lot of people want to buy T-shirts or souvenirs, memory stuff, that have him on it. We used to sell Colonel Rebel stuff only to kids. We never sold it to adults before they banned it, but the demand is there now,” Busby said. “We have a good bit of T-shirts with him on it, but once we sell out, it’s gone. I’m not sure that we will make it to the second ballgame before we sell out. This past weekend there were a lot of people that wanted things with the Colonel on it.”
Chris Riddell, the owner of Ink Spot and Cat Daddy’s, had similar things to say about his Colonel Rebel sales over the summer. Riddell, who also produces T-shirts, is selling his Colonel Rebel materials here locally and also at a Jackson mall kiosk.
“Our Colonel Rebel sales have spiked but I thought we would be selling more than we have,” Riddell said. “I would say that we have doubled if not tripled the products we used to sell with him on it. The emphasis has been more than average and we have the inventory to meet the demand.”
New mascot sales
While the sale of Colonel Rebel materials is high now, store owners know that when the new mascot is unveiled, there will be a big demand for that as well. There are five figures in the running to become the new mascot at Ole Miss, but all of those who make shirts are hoping for a marketable figure such as the bear.
“People will be ready to go out and buy a shirt with the new mascot. They will be gung ho for whatever the university comes up with,” Busby said.
Tatum said a new mascot gives him more options when printing up a T-shirt each fall.
“You’re kind of limited right now with the basic logos that are available and what you can come up with. It gets boring to print up shirts when you only have a few options,” Tatum said. “An intimidating mascot, like the bear, would be fine with me. You can have him battling all the other mascots in the SEC. Right now it’s a win-win situation with the sales of the Colonel Rebel and whatever the new mascot will be.”
So here’s looking forward to the new mascot while we still enjoy the one we have all grown to know for so long. (August 27, 2010, Page 8A)