Ole Miss adopts Landshark as new official mascot for athletic events

— -- Ole Miss will have a new mascot lurking on the sidelines of its athletic events -- a "Landshark."

Ole Miss chancellor Jeffrey Vitter announced the change Friday, adding the university will still be known as the Rebels.

"The growth of the Landshark mystique over the last seven years has been phenomenal with every athletics team embracing it, including such standouts as Marshall Henderson with basketball and Kaitlin Lee with softball, in leading their respective teams to SEC championships," Vitter said in a statement.

The term Landshark originated in 2008 and was quickly adopted by the football team's defensive unit, according to the athletic department. Since then, players from Ole Miss teams have celebrated big plays by putting a hand to their forehead in the shape of a shark fin.?

The as-yet named Landshark will replace Rebel the Bear, who was selected as the Ole Miss mascot in 2010. In 2003, the university retired Colonel Reb from the field in an effort to move away from symbols of the Old South.

Rebel the Bear's retirement is effective immediately, and the mascot will not be present at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium when Ole Miss plays Auburn on Saturday, athletic director Ross Bjork said.

The bear's ouster follows a student-government poll in which 81 percent of the respondents endorsed the Landshark. Vitter said he conferred with several student and alumni groups before making the decision. The Landshark is expected to be unveiled in 2018.