Chancellor: Ole Miss fight song may be dropped

Published 3:29 pm Wednesday, November 4, 2009

University of Mississippi football fans who refuse to stop chanting “the South will rise again” are on the verge of losing one of their favorite fight songs, the school’s chancellor said Monday.

Ole Miss Chancellor Dan Jones said “From Dixie With Love” will no longer be played at games if fans continue the racially offensive chant.

Last month, Jones asked the band to abruptly end the tune to discourage the chant, but he says that didn’t solve the problem.

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Jones said fan reaction during Saturday’s game against Northern Arizona would decide the fate of the song, which blends the Confederate Army’s fight song, “Dixie,” with the Union Army’s “Battle Hymn of the Republic.” It’s been played for the university’s band for about two decades.

“The University of Mississippi is a warm and welcoming place. So many have worked hard to make sure our image moves forward, and we don’t want anything to hurt that,” Jones said during a luncheon sponsored by the John C. Stennis Institute of Government and the Capitol Press Corps.

“If the chant continues, we will discontinue the music that’s associated with it,” he said.

All of the university’s head coaches, including football coach Houston Nutt, have endorsed the effort to end the chant, said athletics director Pete Boone.

“The chant ’the South will rise again’ reflects negatively not only on the university but also on the progress we have made in athletics over the past two decades,” Boone said in a recent statement. “We join the super majority of the Ole Miss family in calling for discontinuing the chant.”

Jones said the words in the phrase are “harmful” because they’ve been used by integration opponents in the past. For years, the university has worked to rid itself of an Old South image that included the 1962 violent standoff over James Meredith’s admission as the university’s first black student.

“I think the vast majority of our students don’t understand the significance of this. I think most of the students who are participating in saying those words, don’t know how painful they are,” Jones said.

The move to abolish the chant began in October when the Ole Miss student government association passed a resolution to change the phrase to “to hell with LSU.” The Faculty Senate later took a vote in support of the association and Jones.

Ole Miss has worked to improve its image as a racially diverse environment for decades after the 1962 admission of James Meredith as the school’s first black student led to a deadly standoff.

Geoffrey Yoste, 45, a former Ole Miss instructor and retired Army National Guard major, said he agreed the chant is divisive and should stop, but he believes the university has mishandled the situation.

Yoste said Ole Miss officials should have held a convocation for freshmen to discuss what’s acceptable on campus, rather “trying to tell a bunch of 21-year-olds what they can’t do.”

“I would hate for the Ole Miss band to stop playing ‘From Dixie with Love.’ That would be a terrible tragedy. Even opposing teams that visit, they just think it’s something new and special,” Yoste said.