The Texas Longhorns will continue to play “The Eyes of Texas” after football games throughout the season, even without the band present for Saturday’s matchup with Baylor, a statement from university president Jay Hartzell said Wednesday evening.
The Daily Texas reported Wednesday that an internal band survey asking whether or not they would play the song led to a lack of “necessary instrumentation.” However, Hartzell said in his statement that “while we would love the band to be with our fans at all our games, we never planned for them to perform live this Saturday.”
“We knew this summer that, as we make our campus a more welcoming place, we would face many hard conversations,” Hartzell’s statement continued. “I remain truly optimistic that we will find ways to join together around our song, which has been so positive for so many Longhorns over the past 120 years.”
“The Eyes of Texas” has come under scrutiny for its history in blackface minstrel shows. Furthermore, the alma mater’s first verse is inspired by a phrase frequently used by Confederate commander Robert E. Lee: “The eyes of the South are upon you.”
This summer, pressure mounted on Texas to do away with the song as athletes from multiple sports released a statement requesting changes at the school. Among those: renaming certain buildings on campus and replacing “The Eyes of Texas” with “a new song without racist undertones.”
The statement also requested the university lift a requirement for athletes to sing the song.
— 🦅 (@_BrennanEagles_) June 12, 2020
Last week, athletic director Chris Del Conte said he expected players to remain on the field during the postgame playing of the alma mater.
“I have had many conversations with our head coaches outlining my expectations that our teams show appreciation for our university, fans, and supporters by standing together as a unified group for ‘The Eyes,’ while we work through this issue,” Del Conte said, according to the Associated Press.
Coach Tom Herman, though, said this week there’s no requirement for players to remain on the field for the song. There was “confusion,” Herman said, following Texas’ Oct. 10 loss to Oklahoma at the Cotton Bowl, leading to quarterback Sam Ehlinger standing as one of the lone figures left on the field when the song began.
Ehlinger has since called the scene a “misunderstanding,” saying he stayed to talk with coaches and players. Still, Ehlinger said he stood to recognize the song because of his connection to it growing up a Longhorns fan from Austin.
“That perspective is that I grew up a Longhorn. I grew up singing The Eyes of Texas’ win, lose or draw,” he said, according to the Austin American-Stateman. “I shared that experience with my family. I shared that experience with my [late] dad, and never once singing that song has anything negative ever crossed my mind. It was always about paying respect to the university and the incredible tradition that the University of Texas has. I also feel a connection with my family and my dad singing that song because I grew up doing that. That’s why it’s important to me. All of my guys and all of my teammates understand that and they know my perspective.”