History of the UNLV Rebels Mascot

While the football team has struggled to compete on the national stage, the UNLV Rebels' mascot has been one of the sport's most contentious.

While they’ve struggled to contend on the national stage in recent years, the UNLV Rebels mascot has proven to be one of the most contentious in college football.

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What Is the UNLV Rebels Mascot?

As we head into the 2023 college football season, the question of who — or what — is the Rebels mascot is something of a trick question. Since the retirement of ‘Hey Reb!’ in 2021, UNLV has been a mascot-less entity in college football. End of conversation? It’s not even close to being the beginning of it.

‘Hey Reb!’ was just the latest Rebels mascot to cause concern amongst a more historically and socio-economically conscious fan base and wider audience. The original UNLV mascot was a cartoon wolf who was dressed in a Confederate uniform, designed as a way of showing the program’s rebellion against the University of Nevada, Reno, which also had a wolf as its mascot.

The design of the mascot, with its cheeky demeanor, was meant to signal a marked contrast from UNR’s more typical wolf mascot design and another symbol of the program’s rebellious nature. However, the choice of confederate uniform was the first mistake that would later be described by the university as “misguided” and “unfortunate.”

Naming the Rebels mascot ‘Beauregard’ after the first prominent general for the Confederacy –Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard — was another fairly significant mistake. In the 1970s, the student body voted to replace the Rebels’ mascot, given the ties to the confederacy and a lack of relevance to the community.

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Several other mascots emerged in the years following, and the program went several years without an official mascot. However, in 1982, Mike Miller sketched out a character that sought to incorporate the history of the community while still embodying the spirit of the Rebels’ nickname. Miller based his design on the idea of the mountain men associated with the Nevada area in the 1800s.

“Pathfinders were severely independent people who went all around the West looking for new trails, agriculture, gold mining, and everything,” Miller said in a 2011 interview.

His solution was ‘Hey Reb!’ who served as the UNLV mascot from 1983 until his retirement in 2020. While the mascot was popular in the early years following his creation, and various redesigns attempted to modernize him, the links to the confederacy and subsequent links to racism courted controversy.

“Having a mascot that is inextricably connected to a failed regime whose single aim was to preserve the institution of slavery is an embarrassment to our campus and to our community,” wrote David J. Morris, the creator of a petition that ultimately ended the reign of ‘Hey Reb!’ reign as the Rebels’ mascot.

Along with the retirement of the UNLV mascot, a sculpture of ‘Hey Reb!’ that had stood outside the Tam Alumni Center on campus since 2007 was also removed.

Why Was the UNLV Mascot a Rebel?

Although UNLV retired ‘Hey Reb!’ as the Rebels mascot in 2021, the program maintained the nickname that dates back to the origins of the program in the mid-1950s. There have been multiple attempts by students to replace the nickname, with suggestions such as Big Horn Rams, Nuggets, and Sand Burners meeting with rejection in the early 1970s.

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According to the UNLV website, the Rebels’ nickname “reflects the tenacious attitude and relentless spirit of a university and a community that dares to be different. Rebels are independent, resilient, and at times unconventional. Rebels aren’t tied to the past, and they’re not intimidated by the future.”

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