Las Vegas Sun

July 30, 2016

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Why are the UNLV sports teams represented by a Confederate rebel?

Mascot Hey Reb is a remnant of UNLV's identification with the Confederacy, a result of its start as a branch of that university in the North.

Mascot Hey Reb is a remnant of UNLV's identification with the Confederacy, a result of its start as a branch of that university in the North.

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Why are the UNLV sports teams represented by a Confederate rebel?

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Hey Reb, the hat-wearing, square-chinned, mustachioed mascot, isn’t a rebel of the Confederacy. UNLV cut ties with its Old South symbolism in the 1970s, after students protested its racist connotations.

Before that, however, UNLV drew liberally on the symbols of the Confederacy. The original mascot was Beauregard, a cartoon wolf clad in a Confederate gray military jacket and cap. The student government — now the Consolidated Students of the University of Nevada — was originally the Confederated Students of the University of Nevada. And, for a time, the football team’s helmets were emblazoned with a Rebel flag.

To understand why UNLV students cast themselves as rebels, it helps to understand the civil war being waged in state politics when Southern Nevada’s university was founded, in 1957. The school, which began as a “branch” of the University of Nevada, in Reno, had to fight the political power of the north to become autonomous.

“Although UNLV dropped its Confederate mascot, the school’s colors and the Rebel nickname endured,” wrote UNLV history professor Eugene Moehring in “The University of Nevada, Las Vegas: A History.” “After all, ‘rebel’ stood for much more than a supporter of the Civil War against the Union ... Most of all, in Southern Nevada it stood for those who had opposed northern domination in the state Legislature and unwanted dependency upon Reno.”

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