I’m all for college football traditions.
Traditions provide college football with the pageantry and passion that is often lacking from the professional game. Fall Saturdays would not be the same without someone dotting the I in Ohio, an orange-tinged crowd singing Rocky Top, or a whole stadium standing just in case a 12th man is needed.
Besides providing the game with much needed excitement, traditions are also supposed to unite fanbases.
Football teams, especially those from public universities, represent much more than their schools. They often represent their cities, regions, and even their entire state.
Traditions help to unite young and old, alumni and student, white and black.
That’s why I’m glad University of Mississippi Chancellor Dan Jones recently banned the playing of the song “From Dixie With Love” during football games.
As most college football fans have heard by now, Jones and university administration wanted to prevent students from chanting the “The South Will Rise Again” at the end of the song. When students refused, Jones decided to prohibit the song all together.
Though it means the school’s beloved fight song will no longer be played, the chant needs to go.
It simply has no place in intercollegiate athletics.
Some students, alumni, and casual fans might not find a problem with the chant. In fact, many are outraged that the administration has gotten rid of yet another sacred Ole Miss tradition.
However, this “tradition” has too much bad history behind it.
Like it or not, such thinking is linked to an era when Jim Crow segregation was a way of life in Mississippi.
I truly wonder if students who are so adamant about chanting “The South Will Rise Again” are familiar with the story of Ole Miss’s integration.
In 1962, James Meredith became the first black student to enroll at the university. The residents of Oxford literally rioted in the streets, staging a battle with federal troops and U.S. Marshals that left two dead.
Surely those who fought federal officials in the Battle of Oxford were hoping the South would rise again.
I doubt those students realize that in 1972, Ole Miss was one of the last SEC schools to integrate their athletic program.
And the lost traditions alumni complain about, such as waving the Confederate flag at games and cheering on a plantation-owning mascot, could not have helped Ole Miss recruit blue-chip African American athletes over the years.
Little wonder, then, that the Rebels have not exactly taken the SEC by storm in men’s basketball and football through the years. In fact, the gridiron Rebels last won the SEC in 1963, when every team in the conference was all white.
As the state’s flagship school, the University of Mississippi should strive to reflect the best qualities of the state. It should be a point of pride for all Mississippians, even those who do not attend.
Why, then, should the university celebrate something that automatically alienates over a third of the state’s population and echoes the bigoted viewpoints of the pre-Civil Rights era?
And if you’re still not convinced the chant is harmful, just remember the Ku Klux Klan paid a recent visit to Oxford to protest the ban.
Last time I checked, those guys were interested in seeing the South rise again, too.