An athletic director at an Arkansas school has resigned over the ongoing controversy around the longtime Rebels mascot and perceived racist theme song of Dixie.
As reported by Arkansas ABC affiliate KHBS reported Brett Rains on Twitter, Fort Smith public schools athletic director Jim Rowland resigned Monday amidst growing controversy related to the proposed course of action related to the longtime mascot for Southside High School. The school competed as the Rebels until last summer, when the mascot was unanimously retired following the horrific Charleston, S.C. church shootings.
At the time, Southside adopted the Mavericks nickname, though a simmering debate has emerged over whether the rebels mascot (and not the theme song or traditional perceived racist imagery) should be reinstated.
According to the Times Record, a potential compromise over the coaching staff could come in the form of a return of the mascot’s name but not the more racially tinged imagery. Somewhere along the line, athletic director Jim Rowland determined that the debate was not progressing in a direction he felt comfortable with, eventually choosing to resign at a Monday Fort Smith School Board Meeting.
Rowland’s resignation is a significant landmark in the Southside Rebels saga. The athletic director was one of the longest tenured employees in the district, and was apparently so upset that he could not bring himself to attend the board meeting, instead having Southside football coach Jeff Williams read his resignation letter on his behalf. Southside Principal Wayne Haver told the KHBS that he is “upset as he’s ever been,” about the Rowland’s decision to retire.
Now questions will turn to what Rowland’s resignation means for Southside’s future, and under which mascot its teams will play.