AUSTIN, Texas - The University of Texas at Austin's athletics director has weighed in on the school's "The Eyes of Texas" tradition.
Chris Del Conte's comments come after few UT players remained on the field as the song played with their "horns up" for fans after Saturday's UT-OU game.
The official alma mater song and unofficial fight song is currently in the center of controversy because of its racial undertones. It's been long criticized for its connection to minstrel shows with characters in blackface in the early 1900s.
Del Conte said in his weekly "Forty Acres Insider" that he's had many conversations with UT's head coaches which outline his 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."
"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," Del Conte wrote. "As much as our student-athletes love this University, they have questions about the history of "The Eyes" and concerns about it."
According to Del Conte, UT President Jay Hartzell "was absolutely clear that "The Eyes" is and will remain our school song, but in an effort to further understand its origins, full history, and how it's evolved over time, he established a committee to study, contextualize, and reclaim the song's origin."
Del Conte's statement also comes after the dean of UT Austin's College of Fine Arts said in September that the Texas Longhorn band will be expected to perform "The Eyes of Texas."
In a letter, Dean Douglas Dempster said that when the band performs, it will be expected to perform the song that has been at the center of controversy for quite some time due to its racial ties.
"I’m aware that students in the band are divided about the meaning and significance of The Eyes. Some feel they cannot in good conscience continue to perform it," Dempster said in the letter. "Others take pride in the song. And I know yet others are conflicted. This is threatening the unity and viability of the band as a band."
In June, dozens of UT student-athletes released a statement calling on the University and Texas Athletics to address racial injustice, and on their list was "The Eyes of Texas."
LHBlacks, a new organization within the Longhorn band committed to amplifying black voices and providing a community for its black members, was also founded this year on Juneteenth. All of the members of this organization have agreed to not perform the song at all this fall.