BY COLLEEN COYLE – STAFF WRITER
The history of Centre College is long, and one that many students here at Centre are proud of. Centre remained open during the Civil War, with Old Centre serving as a hospital for both the Union and Confederate troops. The college managed to defeat Harvard at football (once) and today we can boast about respectable national rankings and top-rated study abroad program.
However, Centre’s mascot, the Colonel, has been around almost as long as Centre, but rarely do students contemplates the origins, significance, or symbolism represented by the Colonel. Students have differing opinions concerning the Colonel but little is known about why a Colonel represents Centre and how Colonels became mascots for other schools, such as Eastern Kentucky University and previously at University of Mississippi.
Centre has had the Praying Colonel as a mascot since the early 19th century, and it demonstrated Centre’s religious origins and ties to Southern culture. The mascot has been redesigned in recent years, with the college recently updating the mascot’s image, moving toward a more modern interpretation of the Colonel. This update was well received by the campus student body, however, some students felt that the mascot was too modern and took away any sentimental value that might be evoked by the Centre mascot.
Sophomore Torey Hawkins stated “I do not like the new design of the [colonel], I think the new design is too modern and digital, but I think the colonel represents that we are not only fighters but winners and work towards the top. To be a colonel.”
In contrast, Anais Deboeuf adds “it’s pretty unique…I’m not really sure I would go around saying I’m a colonel but it is funny when people ask if we are popcorn kernels.” Certainly, the mascot is unique, particularly because it bears the “praying” part of “praying” colonels, setting it aside from more classic colonels.
Other colonels in college iconography have been removed, due to the potentially sordid past the icon can evoke. University of Mississippi replaced their “Old Reb!” with a black bear after allegations that the colonel was a relic of southern slavery and white supremacy. Advocates for change argued that the images like the “colonel” encouraged students to bring confederates flags to games and intimidated African-American students from attending.
Additionally, Eastern Kentucky University faced internal debate after their mascot was challenged by a former history professor who called the colonel “anachronistic” and a “relic”. However, unlike Ole Miss, Eastern Kentucky University did not change their mascot, as various factions within the school administration resisted the change and ultimately won out.
The question has arisen on Centre’s campus: Exactly what does Praying Colonel stands for and does this image needs to be revisited? Certainly replacing the Colonel would be a difficult task, and a logistical nightmare for the College administration. The “Centre Columns” or the “Centre World Citizens?” Neither of them have quite the same ring to it as Centre Colonel and until more thought is devoted to what our Colonel stands for there is little evidence to suggest that it will be changing any time soon.