Two weeks ago, Texas Longhorns quarterback Sam Ehlinger was the lone football player standing on the field singing “The Eyes of Texas” school song following the team’s 53-45 quadruple overtime defeat against the rival Oklahoma Sooners. The rest of the team had already departed for the locker room.
This week as the Texas Longhorns host the Baylor Bears in Austin, Ehlinger and his teammates won’t risk further revealing a divided locker room in Austin. That’s because the band will not be playing the song at the game due to a “lack of instrumentation” after a survey revealed numerous members objected to playing it due to its racist history.
Tom Herman and Texas Longhorns united against systemic racism
With tensions rising in June just days after George Floyd’s death, Texas Longhorns head coach Tom Herman gathered with staff and players for a challenging discussion on social injustice issues gripping the country.
Those talks inspired a large contingent of Texas football players and coaches to march from Royal-Memorial Stadium to the Texas state capitol, where multiple athletes passionately spoke of their own painful experiences.
The march was a spark. A fire was starting. Soon after, multiple university athletics programs joined together, calling on the university to act. The student-athletes requested renaming multiple campus buildings named after racist figures. They also suggested replacement of the school fight song, “The Eyes of Texas,” written in 1903 and originally sung and played at minstrel shows featuring performers in blackface.
University responds renaming field after Texas Longhorn legends
A month later, the university announced a set of diversity initiatives that would “reconsider how to best reflect the university’s values, both in the symbols and names on campus and in the openness with which UT tells its history.”
The university agreed to rename the field from Joe Jamail Field to Campbell-Williams Field, in honor of the school’s only two Heisman Trophy winners Earl Campbell and Ricky Williams. A statue of Julius Whittier would also be erected in the future. He was the first black football player to letter at Texas in 1970.
The university initially said the fight song would remain. Although it was later announced the school was forming a committee with current and former athletes to examine the song and share its findings with university officials in January.
Band refuses to play ‘Eyes of Texas’ song
Earlier this year the Dean of The College of Fine Arts said when band members returned for the fall semester they would be expected to play the song. In the first two home games of the season, the song was played over the PA system.
According to The Daily Texan, it obtained a message to band members that the Longhorn Band will not play at the upcoming Baylor football game due to inadequate instrumentation.
“Based on (survey responses), we do not have the necessary instrumentation, so we will not participate in Saturday’s game,” Longhorn Band director Scott Hanna said. Hanna indicated the band is “divided in opinion” similar to the division displayed by Sam Ehlinger and the Texas Longhorn football team in Dallas.
Hanna said the conversation that has started on the song and its racist history is moving toward a resolution, but it will take a sustained effort. It’s much too early to predict a final outcome and whether the song will ever be played again. The eyes of the college football world will be watching Austin to see what happens with the school fight song in the future.