As prospective students toured the campus one day last month, a guide explained why Ole Miss fans wear church clothes to football games.
The football team, he said, represents the troops heading off to battle, harking back to 1861 when students enlisted en masse in the Confederate Army. Their families, the tradition goes, saw them off wearing their Sunday best.
Nor would they change the team’s name, Rebels. Instead, the school is trying to reframe it. “We’re not Rebels in the old sense,” Dr. Vitter said. “We’re Rebels in a very positive sense.
Efforts at contextualization gathered steam after a campus disturbance in November 2012 in which students protested President Barack Obama’s re-election, some yelling racial epithets.