The entries included a serpent, Snoopy in confederate garb, a Minuteman and a Viking-like character swinging an ax from atop a wild boar. In the end, they canned them all.

Four years after Fairfax High School discharged Johnny Reb, the school's Confederate mascot, a committee decided that no mascot is better than a potentially controversial one.

Former Fairfax High School principal Harry F. Holsinger banished Johnny Reb from the school in 1986 after some blacks complained that the rebel character was an outdated and racially tinged reminder of the days of slavery.

Later, more than 2,000 parents and students petitioned the action and demanded Johnny Reb's return. A $1.1 million suit was filed against Holsinger, charging that he had violated their First Amendment rights. A federal appeals court ruled that Holsinger was within his rights in getting rid of Johnny Reb.

A committee of students, teachers, administrators and booster club members began searching for Johnny Reb's replacement early this year. The group sponsored a contest, asking for submissions and offering $100 for the winning design, with the requirement that the mascot not resemble Johnny Reb and that it not be offensive.

But in early May, after reviewing nearly 30 submissions, the group threw up its hands and decided that the school with the nickname "The Rebels" should do without one.

"It just seems so reactionary and paranoid," said student government Vice President Edward Wyatt Jr., citing high schools in the county named after Jeb Stuart and Robert E. Lee. "I don't want Johnny Reb back, but why not get a soldier that doesn't have Confederate colors -- a Minuteman man or a spirit of '76 type of thing."

"You just can't please anybody these days," said committee member and student government President Tim Tyrrell, a senior. "Say if I was to put the bear in there, I'd have an animal rights activist after me saying, 'You've got someone riding a bear and you're hurting him.' "

George Chinn, an administrative aide who coaches boys basketball and girls tennis at Fairfax High, described the process as "one of those deals where you had to please all of the people all of the time."

"It just kind of slipped between the cracks and pretty soon was done," Chinn said.

The committee also decided to scrap an interim logo -- the words "Fairfax Rebels" under a pair of cross swords superimposed on an American flag with 13 stars. That "You just can't please anybody these days."

-- senior Tim Tyrrell

logo was adopted shortly after Johnny Reb's downfall, but failed to gain students' respect and instead has been the brunt of jokes.

"No one seemed to appreciate it," said Principal Donald Weinheimer, who came to the school in 1988. "They wanted something that would generate some action, an animal or human being that could go out on the playing field and be seen."

Most Fairfax County schools have mascots, which can be seen running up and down the sidelines at athletic events, and emblazoned as logos on school football helmets, uniforms, stationary letterhead and concession items such as plastic cups. But as the shadow of the Johnny Reb controversy remains, most agree the matter will not be brought up soon. "At this point, it's kind of a dead issue here," Weinheimer added. "Unless there was an awful lot of support out there, I wouldn't even consider it."

Meanwhile, Fairfax High Athletic Director Patrick Laing said he hopes to find a graphic artist who can take the word "Rebels" and enhance it, perhaps through creative lettering. "I still think there's something out there," Laing said. "In the future, I hope we can find it."