Though school administrators would love to see players stay on the field and stand for the playing of “The Eyes of Texas,” coach Tom Herman insisted on Monday that they aren’t — and never have — required players to do so.
The song, often seen as racist due to its origins in the state, has been the center of controversy in recent months at the university.
“I think mandate is a very strong word,” Herman said, via the Austin American-Statesman. “That’s never been a word that’s been used to us as coaches from our administration, nor from us coaches to our players.”
The “Eyes of Texas” was first performed at minstrel shows in the early 1900s by white singers in blackface, and was based on what former school president Colonel Prather would tell students. He tweaked a former saying from Washington and Lee University president and confederate general Robert E. Lee, who would say “the eyes of the South are upon you,” so that it would fit Texas.
Athletes at the school, among other things, asked the school to find a new song for them to sing after games earlier this summer.
Texas AD expects players to stand
Texas athletic director Chris Del Conte said last week that, after speaking with coaches and “outlining my expectations” with them, that he expects teams to show appreciation to fans by staying on the field after games for the song.
Football players normally stand with the band before leaving the field after home games, though have started leaving the field early. Most players left the field early after their four-overtime loss to Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl earlier this month, though quarterback Sam Ehlinger and a few others remained.
Del Conte wrote in a letter to fans after that game that he expects Texas teams to “stand together as a unified group” for the song “while we work through this issue.”
“Many of your questions have been about our student-athletes and the confusion about why they have not remained on the field for ‘The Eyes of Texas’ after the games,” Del Conte wrote in a letter to fans after that game, via the Austin American-Statesman. “I, like so many of you, view the song with pride and sing loudly and proudly in honor of the efforts of those who represent and support this phenomenal institution.
“As much as our student-athletes love this university, they have questions about the history of ‘The Eyes’ and concerns about it.”
Many athletes at the school have been very vocal about their feelings toward the song. While the issue is a divisive one, Herman said Monday that he doesn’t feel the heat within their locker room — even after having specific discussions about the song.
“We had a great team meeting,” Herman said, via the Austin American-Statesman. “The result of that meeting, I think the general pulse of the team, is that we’re in as good a place as we’ve ever been right now as a team. I couldn’t be prouder of our team for staying unified throughout all of this, throughout the last few months.
“And when I say unified, that doesn’t mean everybody agrees. What that means is that there has been a ton of open, honest and mature conversation in regards to a lot of topics. We’re a very divided country — very, very divided country. And our locker room is exactly the opposite.”
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