The University of Texas is home to one of the most historic programs across college sports. In recent months, the school has had to deal with a serious situation involving one of its longtime traditions.
Players within Texas’ football program have revealed that they’ve faced backlash from boosters and donors over their position about the school’s fight song. The Longhorn players explained how alumni made threats that went far beyond the football field.
The University of Texas’ fight song has a racist history
During the college football season, the University of Texas made headlines after falling to Oklahoma. It wasn’t losing to them for the third straight, though. It was because quarterback Sam Ehlinger was the only player on the field during the playing of the school song, “The Eyes of Texas,” in a postgame tradition where players stand and sing together.
During the summer of 2020, many University of Texas students petitioned that the school eliminate the song as a part of its postgame traditions. Protestors cited the university’s racist history and the racist undertones the song supports as a reason why the school should eradicate it.
“The Eyes of Texas” has been the fight song for Texas for over a century. The song is derived from a Confederate Army Commander Robert E. Lee quote that glorifies confederacy and southern values. The Texas Cowboys school spirit association used the song at campus minstrel shows, according to the Texas Tribune.
The University said it would still keep the fight song but educate visitors and students on its history and context, according to the Texas Tribune. The school also pledged to erect statues honoring its historical Black figures to bring awareness to the university’s Black history.
UT boosters threatened to pull donations over ‘The Eyes of Texas’
The University of Texas President Jay Hartzell announced that the school wouldn’t change its unofficial fight song, despite the racist undertones and students’ petition. According to the Texas Tribune, emails were sent to Hartzell from alumni and donors criticizing him for how he handled the situation against Oklahoma.
Several of those emails demanded that the players stay on the field while the song is played, or they would pull their donations from the university. In some messages, alumni and donors were hostile toward students and athletes who didn’t support the fight song.
“UT needs rich donors who love ‘The Eyes of Texas’ more than they need one crop of irresponsible and uninformed students or faculty who won’t do what they are paid to do,” said former Texas law student Steven Arnold, according to the Texas Tribune.
According to two Texas football players, school alumni and donators were about to make their lives much harder if they didn’t acquiesce to their demands.
Texas football players were threatened over ‘The Eyes of Texas’
President Hartzell wasn’t the only person who faced backlash over “The Eyes of Texas.” University athletes also endured criticism over their unwillingness to support the longtime fight song. After the Oklahoma game, athletic officials told UT football players that they must stay on the field from now on.
“They said y’all don’t have to sing it. But y’all have to stay on the field,” Texas linebacker DeMarvion Overshown told the Texas Tribune.
That wasn’t the worst part for the players. Some players revealed that alumni threatened to hurt their job prospects after graduation if they don’t sing the song. Caden Sterns, a former Longhorn defensive back, tweeted that Texas alumni threatened him and his teammates. According to Sterns, the alumni said he and his teammates would “have to find jobs outside of Texas if we didn’t participate” in the playing of “The Eyes of Texas” after games.
“It was really eye-opening. They [alumni] can keep you from getting a job in the state of Texas. It was shocking that they said that. To this day, I still think back to the moment. They really used that as a threat to get us to try to do what they wanted us to do,” Overshown said.
The University of Texas’ fight song has become a serious issue. Alumni are pressuring the school to keep “The Eyes of Texas” despite its racist past and the students’ uproar. With athletes and students being threatened, the university needs to decide whether it will stand with its students or the boosters.