The University of Mississippi took another step Friday toward distancing itself from the past by dropping the long-held tradition of playing “Dixie” at home football games beginning this fall.

In a brief statement from the athletic department, Ole Miss said the tune that is near and dear to the hearts of many will be replaced by something “more inclusive for all fans” as part of the debut of an expanded Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.

“The newly expanded and renovated Vaught-Hemingway Stadium will further highlight our best traditions and create new ones that give the Ole Miss Rebels the best home field advantage in college football,” the statement reads. “Because the Pride of the South is such a large part of our overall experience and tradition, the Athletics Department asked them to create a new and modern pregame show that does not include Dixie and is more inclusive for all fans.”

Dropping the tune is the latest step by the university to divest itself of racially divisive symbols of the Old South. The school earlier dropped use of the Colonel Rebel mascot and last year stopped displaying the state flag because it includes the Confederate battle emblem. Also, the university installed a plaque earlier this year to provide historical context for the Confederate statue at the entrance to Lyceum Circle on the Oxford campus.

Allen Coon, a junior and student senator who helped draft the resolution to remove the flag last year, said Friday he thinks the newest move by athletic director Ross Bjork is a positive sign.

“It’s an important step forward for our university as we attempt to reconcile and understand our relationship with our Old South past,” Coon said by text. “Ending the use of ‘Dixie’ promotes inclusivity and makes room for traditions that all UM students can connect with.”

Many, however, are likely to resist efforts to break from tradition on the campus integrated by James Meredith in 1962. Two students were charged after a 2014 incident in which a noose and a former Georgia state flag with the Confederate battle emblem were placed on a statue of Meredith on the campus.

Former Chancellor Dan Jones led the way in updating the university’s image by slowly pulling away from images associated with the Old South. The efforts accelerated in the wake of the June 2015 slayings of nine African-Americans in a Charleston, South Carolina, church by an avowed white supremacist.

The enrollment of the Oxford campus is about 14 percent African-American, while the state’s population is about 38 percent African-American.

The stadium upgrades cited in the decision to drop “Dixie” include expanding seating capacity to 64,038, a new video board and sound system, improved lighting and replacing artificial turf with natural grass.

Thirty luxury suites and 770 club level seats were added as part of a $200 million capital campaign, and the west suites were refinished for the 2015 season.


(c)2016 The Commercial Appeal (Memphis, Tenn.)

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