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The history of Hey Reb! and other UNLV mascots

Updated June 17, 2020 - 5:31 pm

Are Hey Reb!’s days as a mascot numbered?

UNLV seemed to make the first move in that direction Tuesday, with the removal of the Hey Reb! statue in front of the Tam Alumni Center.

The removal of the statue has sparked conversation as to whether the university will adopt a new nickname and mascot in the near feature.

Until then, here’s the history of Hey Reb! and UNLV’s mascots:

If you didn’t already know what UNLV’s former mascot was, it might have you howling.

You may be familiar with UNR’s current mascots: three wolves named Alphie, Wolfie Jr. and Luna, or at least you’re familiar with the moniker “Wolf Pack.”

Beauregard was the name of the UNLV’s Rebel Wolf, born in 1957. And he caused a bit of a blunder.

Beauregard was a cartoon wolf with an art style not unlike the early works of Walt Disney. He wore a gray Civil War-era military field jacket, a Confederate hat and a mischievous little wink.

The students were still the rebels, but at the school’s conception, their rebellion was against rivals at UNR in the northern half of the state.

UNLV, which at the time was called Nevada Southern University, was aiming to be much more than a “branch” of Reno.

The students and members of the community were swift to call out the mascot. They felt Beau had nothing to do with the community and that he glorified Confederate Civil War ideals.

The first major dissenting opinion was published in a November 1970 edition of “The Rebel Yell,” the school’s newspaper, by an African American student activist named Bert Babero, Jr. His father worked as the emeritus professor of zoology at UNLV for 23 years and passed away in 2012.

As described in “University of Nevada, Las Vegas: a History” by UNLV history professor Eugene Moehring, “… as Babero noted, times had changed. Explaining that for African Americans the term Rebel bore racist connotations, he insisted that ‘to expect black people to love and glorify the Confederacy, to wear a Confederate flag or applaud a Confederate wolf defies all logic. It’s like asking a Jew to wear a Swastika.’”

In the early 1970s, a group of African-American student-athletes voiced objection to the Confederate imagery surrounding the mascot and in 1976, students voted to officially banish Beauregard but retained the Rebels name.

Beauregard was replaced briefly by a Revolutionary War soldier, but UNLV went largely without a mascot until 1982, when Hey Reb! was created by former Review-Journal artist Mike Miller, who said his inspiration came from the western mountain men of the 1800s who ventured into uncharted Nevada.

Hey Reb! made his debut at a UNLV-UNR basketball game on Dec. 9, 1982.

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In 1997, he was changed to the square-jawed, mustached man we know today. He remains the school’s mascot to this day, symbolizing the rebellious free spirit of the students and the world they live in.

UNLV on Tuesday removed the Hey Reb! statue in front of the Tam Alumni Center after outcry from student groups, including the Native American Student Association.

“In recent conversations with the donor we mutually agreed it was best to remove the statue and return it,” university President Marta Meana said in a statement Tuesday night.

The removal follows weeks of protests and sporadic violence across the country after George Floyd’s death on May 25. Many Confederate monuments have been damaged or taken down, some toppled by demonstrators, others removed by local authorities.

A petition to abolish UNLV’s mascot was created Sunday following three letters from Jonathan “Doc” Bradley, a part-time political science professor at the university.

In 2015, UNLV released a 60-page analysis assembled over five months stating that UNLV’s Rebel nickname nor its Hey Reb! mascot have ties to the Confederacy. The report was in response to comments made by U.S. Sen. Harry Reid about the university’s nickname earlier in the year amid a nationwide focus on Confederacy symbols prompted by a racially inspired shooting in Charleston, S.C.

The student newspaper, “The Rebel Yell” changed its name in 2016 to The Scarlet & Grey Free Press. Then-Editor-in-Chief Bianca Cseke said, “a Confederate Army battle cry is not a great name for any paper.”

Review-Journal Sports Digital Producer Rochelle Richards contributed to this report.

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