On Saturday, because the University of Texas Longhorns band members did not play the university’s traditional alma mater song, “The Eyes of Texas,” after the Texas-Baylor football game following claims that it had racist undertones, stadium speakers played the song so fans could stand and sing along with it.
“The Longhorn Band will not participate in the Texas vs. Baylor football game Saturday after an internal survey asking whether members would play ‘The Eyes of Texas’ revealed a lack of ‘necessary instrumentation,’ according to a message to band members obtained by The Daily Texan. ‘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 in the message,” the Daily Texan reported.
Some student athletes had previously said they opposed the song, and the football team left the field after the first two home games of the season before the song was played, triggering UT athletic director Chris Del Conte to say he expected Longhorns teams to “stand in unison” during the song.
On Saturday, the entire Longhorns football team remained on the field and sang with their fans as they made a “Horns Up” sign after the Longhorns’ 27-16 victory. CBS Sports reported, “Most notable about the postgame tradition was how the entire Longhorns football team remained on the field and stood with their fans to join them in singing the song with their hands in the air making a ‘Horns Up’ sign.”
Every Longhorn player stayed for The Eyes of Texas pic.twitter.com/CJmWQsJDx4
— Anwar Richardson (@AnwarRichardson) October 24, 2020
Last Wednesday, UT President Jay Hartzell stated, “The Eyes of Texas will be played this weekend as it has been throughout this season – and it will continue to be played at future games and events. 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. 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,” as UT News reported.
On Thursday, Kevin P. Eltife, Chairman of The University of Texas System Board of Regents, echoed:
At its July 2020 meeting, The University of Texas System Board of Regents unanimously supported UT Austin President Jay Hartzell’s announcement that The Eyes of Texas will remain the school song. The Regents also supported President Hartzell’s plans to engage in ongoing dialogue with the university community to discuss the song’s origin and meaning, while implementing additional university-wide initiatives to strengthen UT Austin’s commitment to provide a welcoming and diverse campus.
The Eyes of Texas has been UT Austin’s official school song for almost 120 years. It has been performed at most official events—celebratory or solemn—and sung by proud alumni and students for generations as a common bond of the UT family. It is a longstanding symbol of The University’s academic and athletic achievements in its pursuit of excellence.
To be clear, the UT System Board of Regents stands unequivocally and unanimously in support of President Hartzell’s announcement that The Eyes of Texas is, and will remain, the official school song.
Criticism of the song came in a letter from some student athletes during the Black Lives Matter protests in June. Edmund T. Gordon, an associate professor of African and African Diaspora Studies, referenced the fact that 19thcentury University of Texas president William Lambdin Prather would conclude his talks to students and faculty by intoning, “The eyes of Texas are upon you,” which Gordon said was taken from Confederate General Robert E. Lee when he served as president of what is now called Washington and Lee University in Virginia.
Gordon said, “Lee, as president, used to say to his assembled faculty and students, ‘The eyes of the South are upon you.’” CBS DFW reported, “The song was routinely performed by musicians in blackface at minstrel shows.”
After the student athletes protested against the song, former UT football greats Earl Campbell and Ricky Williams, who are both black, defended it. Campbell stated in September, “I’m proud of that song. I think there’s a lot of things that can be done other than that song in my opinion. I just believe ‘The Eyes of Texas’ stands for something.” Williams echoed, “I think it’s important to understand our history and to understand where the song came from, but I think it’s more powerful to transform the meaning of the song and the definition of the song rather than trying to erase our history like it never existed.”
The lyrics of “The Eyes of Texas” read:
The Eyes of Texas are upon you,
All the livelong day.
The Eyes of Texas are upon you,
You cannot get away.
Do not think you can escape them
At night or early in the morn
The Eyes of Texas are upon you
Til Gabriel blows his horn
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