Silver Rebels letters on a golden wall

UNLV’s "Rebels"

UNLV’s mascot has changed over the years, but one thing that's stayed the same is the "Rebel" spirit driving a university and community to defy convention and make incredible things happen.

“Rebels” Nickname

What’s in a name? At UNLV, our “Rebels” nickname reflects the tenacious attitude and relentless spirit of a university and a community that dares to be different.

Rebels are independent, resilient, and at times unconventional. Rebels aren’t tied to the past, and they’re not intimidated by the future.

UNLV’s nickname dates to the university’s origin in the mid-1950s, a time when a nation founded by rebels once again became obsessed with the idea of the iconic nonconformist. The decade of the 1950s was epitomized by young people rebelling against their parents’ middle-class American values. From popular motion pictures such as 1953’s The Wild One starring Marlon Brando and 1955’s Rebel Without a Cause starring James Dean, to “rebellious” musicians, such as Elvis Presley and the beginnings of rock and roll as it emerged from American blues music, the spirit of the times was rebellion.

The Rebel spirit lives on today at UNLV, through a community imbued with a purpose and motivation that’s greater than the individual, a community of Rebels not afraid to take risks to make things happen.

Retiring Hey Reb!

UNLV’s most recent mascot, Hey Reb!, was created in 1982 by celebrated local artist Mike Miller. Miller was asked to create a character representative of area history that embraced the rebel spirit of defiance and nonconformity.

Hey Reb! was a cartoonish figure modeled after the western trailblazers of the 1800s. From its inception in 1982, the university updated the Hey Reb! mascot and associated spirit mark three times before permanently retiring it in January 2021. The mascot drew criticism in recent years, and multiple university administrations wrestled with finding a solution representative of varying perspectives while also acknowledging the campus’ rich diversity. Hey Reb’s retirement in 2021 followed the removal of a statue from the university campus in June 2020 - through a mutual decision with the donor - and the subsequent refrain from its use in the traditional areas of student recruitment and athletics throughout the fall of 2020.

While UNLV has no current plans to replace the mascot, it’s not the first time, as the UNLV Rebels largely went without one from 1976 to 1982.

UNLV Mascot History

1957-1976: Beauregard

During its nascent years, the tiny extension campus in Las Vegas that was struggling to emerge from the shadow of the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR) drew the idea for Rebels from the natural rivalry that accompanied the split between what would become UNLV and UNR. After establishing the Rebels nickname, Nevada Southern students also created Beauregard, a cartoon wolf with a Confederate uniform, to “rebel” against UNR and its wolf-pack mascot in the North. Beauregard’s smirk and wink contrasted with UNR’s ferocious wolf, another nod to the fledgling school’s break from tradition and its older and more established peer. While it was a decision based in rivalry and fun, the choice of a Confederate-themed mascot was nonetheless misguided and unfortunate.

As Nevada Southern became UNLV, changing times across the country had an impact on campus as well—as students and staff began to question the propriety of a Confederate-themed mascot and other related campus traditions. Such change takes time, but UNLV’s opposition to those images and themes continued to grow until enough was finally enough. In the early 1970s, a group of African-American student-athletes voiced objection to the Confederate imagery surrounding the mascot. Campus leaders agreed, and in 1976, the student senate voted to officially banish Beauregard and thereby remove the association of the Confederacy with UNLV.

UNLV students relegated Beauregard and the Confederate symbols to the history books. Their only presence on campus today is in areas describing the history of the mascot (such as in athletic teams’ media guides) and in the Special Collections area of Lied Library. The symbol also existed for years on the floor of the Marjorie Barrick Museum, the former gymnasium that still has the old wood basketball floor, until it was removed and placed in storage in the summer of 2020.

The Rebel name was also put to a vote in the early 1970s, with students deciding 446 to 246 to retain it. According to the university’s 50th -anniversary book, UNLV: A History, “After all, ‘rebel’ stood for much more than a supporter of the Civil War against the Union. In the 1960s especially, it symbolized those who rejected convention, tradition, racism … Most of all, in southern Nevada it stood for those who had opposed northern domination in the state legislature and unwanted dependency upon Reno.”

UNLV acknowledges that its first generation of students opted for a great name in Rebels but chose to surround it with imagery and symbols that fell short of giving that name the honor it deserved.

It was in this time that the name "Runnin' Rebels" – which refers only to the men’s basketball team – was coined by then-sports information director Dominic Clark in 1974 for Coach Jerry Tarkanian’s up-tempo basketball squads.

1976-1982: Soldiers and Suns

After students voted to reject and abolish Beauregard, the Rebels briefly used a colonial soldier during the Bicentennial. Also for a time, the university adopted the mark of a sun with a period-style UNLV font encircling it. But UNLV went largely without a mascot until 1982.

1982-2020: Hey Reb!

Mike Miller, who passed away in 2014, said his inspiration for the Hey Reb! Character came from the Western trailblazers of the 1800s who ventured into uncharted Nevada to discover resources and build communities. “Pathfinders were severely independent people who went all around the West looking for new trails, agriculture, gold mining, and everything,” he said in a 2011 interview.

The design, which Miller sold to UNLV for one dollar, immediately resonated with students, fans, and the community. Hey Reb! saw some changes in the years since. He lost his rifle and added some muscles in 1997, and in 2017 the costume was again updated and the spirit mark completely redesigned to highlight a stronger connection with the symbolism of Las Vegas.

Though Hey Reb! was permanently retired in January 2021, the university is grateful for the contribution of Mike Miller who created Hey Reb! nearly 40 years ago.

Cartoon wolf logo

Beauregard (1968-1973)

Black circle with repeated U.N.L.V. characters

Sun Logo (1974, 1977-1982)

Realistic looking soldier with U.N.L.V. Rebels text

Colonial Soldier (1975-1976)

Older HeyReb version

HeyReb! (1983-1996)

Mascot head with U.N.L.V. letters behind it

HeyReb! (1997-2005)

Updated mascot head with U.N.L.V. letters behind it

HeyReb! (2006-2017)

graphic mascot head

HeyReb! (2017-2018)

Styled U.N.L.V. letters

Spirit Mark (2019-present)