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UNLV ditching 'Hey Reb!' mascot for good but will keep Rebels nickname

Hey Reb!
UNLV is retiring the Hey Reb! mascot but will remain the Rebels. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

UNLV will remain the Rebels but will no longer use the "Hey Reb!" mascot that many associate with the athletic department.

In a post on the school's website, first-year president Keith E. Whitfield addressed the status of the university's nickname and mascot, which was a hot topic in June when the school removed the "Hey Reb!" mascot on campus, which led to discussion about a potential nickname change (we offered some alternatives last summer).

Whitfield, who was hired in July, said one topic brought up during his introductory period at UNLV was the mascot and nickname.

"One item that came up in the listening tour was the status of our nickname and mascot," he wrote. "I know there are numerous opinions on both, and I appreciate the passion and interest expressed by members of the university community, as well our alumni, fans, and supporters. Multiple university administrations have debated this issue over the years and wrestled with finding a solution that works for everyone, but that’s not feasible.

"Personally, I have always viewed the term 'Rebels' as a strong, nationally recognized brand synonymous with UNLV. I believe the word 'rebel' represents an attitude or spirit. It captures the essence of an iconic city that is unconventional and celebrates its independence, tenacity, and resiliency. Rebels have a purpose or motivation for a greater cause and are not afraid to take risks to make incredible things happen."

Whitfield said the Las Vegas community is regarded worldwide for its rebel spirit that reflects nonconformity and defiance, pointing out its history with gaming and hospitality innovation. He said he was drawn to UNLV because he identified with the school's spirit, determination and daring style, noting "Rebels are not afraid to fail and create a new path when one doesn’t exist."

"For all these reasons and many more, we will continue to be known as 'Rebels,'" Whitfield wrote.

Whitfield, however, said he would follow the lead of his predecessor, President Marta Meana, and discontinue use of "Hey Reb!" the mascot.

"For all intents and purposes, the Hey Reb! mascot has been retired since last spring and there are no plans to bring it back," Whitfield wrote. "We also have no current plans to create a new mascot."

The Hey Reb! statue was based on the 1982 mascot concept created by Las Vegas local Mike Miller, who sold it to the school for just $1. It was created by Art Bronze Inc. in Burbank, Calif., and donated by Chip and Helen Johnson. After its unveiling in 2007, it became a common stop during campus tours with students rubbing its mustache for good luck.

Miller's design was thought to have ended criticism over Confederate symbols in previous UNLV mascots. Hey Reb! was meant to be a Western frontiersman, but students often pointed to him as a symbol of a lack of diversity on campus. Prior to Hey Reb!, the school's mascot was Beauregard, a wolf in Confederate garb armed with a Confederate flag.

The Rebel mascot dates to the school's origin in the mid-1950s when it was first an extension campus of the University of Nevada.

"The decade of the 1950s was epitomized by young people rebelling against their parents’ middle-class American values," UNLV website says. "From popular motion pictures such as 1953’s The Wild One starring Marlon Brando and 1955’s Rebel Without a Cause starring James Dean, to 'rebellious' musicians, such as Elvis Presley and the beginnings of rock and roll as it emerged from American blues music, the spirit of the times was rebellion."

UNLV said it will join the likes of universities like Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Central Michigan as well as the NFL's Green Bay Packers, New York Giants and New York Jets that have no mascot. The university also didn’t have a mascot in the mid-1970s.

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