A committee established by the University of Texas to study the “Eyes of Texas” released its findings Tuesday, concluding the song is not racist but said students and student-athletes should not be forced to sing the lyrics.
The school song played at athletic events by the university band and established as a tradition by the Longhorns was protested by Black players during the 2020 football season. Head coach Tom Herman, who was fired, refused to demand players participate in singing the song on the field, per tradition, after concerns were raised about the song, released in 1903.
Texas athletic boosters roundly and vocally rejected the notion that the song might have racist undertones and questioned Herman’s decision to clear players from participating.
The committee said there should be no requirement for students to sing the song. That runs counter to a directive established in October, when UT athletic director Chris Del Conte met with players and laid out expectations for all athletes to remain on the field and stand to “honor the fans” while the song was played. He did not mandate they sing along.
According to the committee’s findings, the song was not written with racist intent. The report does accept, however, the first public performance was likely by performers in blackface during a minstrel show in 1903.
“These historical facts add complexity and richness to the story of a song that debuted in a racist setting, exceedingly common for the time, but, as the preponderance of research showed, had no racist intent,” the report summary reads. “‘The Eyes of Texas'” should not only unite us, but hold all of us accountable to our institution’s core values.”
Longhorn Network aired an interview Tuesday with school president Jay Hartzell who said he hopes the committee’s findings can bring more honest conversation on the topic.
“The hope is that everybody will use this report as an opportunity to come forward with the same fact base and be able to have more conversations, certainly including with our student-athletes,” Hartzell said.
When asked if the song has racist undertones, Hartzell said: “For me, the song itself doesn’t. But it certainly was present at different times where those undertones existed. You go back to thinking about its first performance in 1903 at a minstrel show. I mean, you cannot deny that that performance has the racial undertones and overtones, if you will. Hateful things. But on the other hand, if you look at the way, to me, the song was composed, written and designed … it was not designed for that.”
–Field Level Media