ST. GEORGE (AP) — Dixie State College trustees voted to retire the school's Rebel nickname and mascot symbol because they are associated with Old South stereotypes invoking slavery and the rebel Confederacy.

It was a formality — Dixie State had already adopted a new Red Storm nickname and bull mascot in February.

It also was a close vote. The board voted 5-4 Friday to retire the old symbols.

The switch came over the objection of hundreds of students and alumni.

Many locals insist the Rebel image hailed from nothing more than efforts by Mormon settlers to grow cotton in southern Utah.

Others said that nuance would be lost on people outside of Utah.

Dixie State College made the switch as it seeks an affiliation with the University of Utah, which has a more national reputation and is concerned about its image.

Randy Dryer, the U.'s chief trustee, has told The Associated Press that the name change was an ironclad condition for Dixie State College's affiliation with the University of Utah.

Dixie may also have to change its name to "University of Utah at St. George" if merger talks succeed, he said.

But Dixie trustees Chairman Shandon Gubler has said the university never explicitly asked the college to change its nickname.

Instead, he said, university officials advised college trustees that if they want to "play on the global stage" they would "be wise to make tough decisions."