The University of Texas Longhorn band will not be performing at Saturday’s football game against Baylor. This comes after several members are reportedly refusing to play the school’s alma mater song ‘The Eyes of Texas.’
The game would’ve been the first time the Longhorn Band performed live at a UT football game this season. So far, the band has not been playing because of COVID-19.
UT’s student newspaper The Daily Texan reported an obtained e-mail sent from the band's director Scott Hanna, saying that the band did not have the "necessary instrumentation" and will not be playing at Saturday’s game as a result.
The Eyes of Texas, UT’s official song, is deeply ingrained in the school's culture. The song has been played upon every momentous school event from football games to graduation, for the last 120 years.
The traditional tune is now at the center of controversy among Longhorns past and present, for its ties to Confederate General Robert E. Lee and minstrel shows.
"This form of entertainment is usually when white men would put Black face on. They would take on these very exaggerated caricatured, racist personas as imagined African Americans and sing songs and tell jokes-- that’s what minstrel shows would be. And so the song was first presented that way," said Jim Sidbury, a former history professor at UT.
Sidbury said he understands how deeply rooted the song is to burnt orange culture, but adds that most Longhorns likely don’t realize it’s origins.
"I am a historian of slavery and race. I worked at UT for 20 years. I did not know of that association, until 10 years ago," Sidbury said.
UT’s quarterback senior Sam Ehlinger, said growing up, the Eyes of Texas meant something different to him and his family. Ehlinger was one of few players who remained on the field while the song played, following the Texas-OU game in early October. Several other players on the team walked out.
"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," said Ehlinger.
Garrett Greene, a 2013 alumni of the Longhorn band and diehard UT fan, says he respects the decision of band members and players who want to boycott what they deem as offensive.
"If UT came down and said look, we’re getting rid of it. We’re not going to use it anymore. Is there a piece of me that would be sad? Absolutely. But I would understand," Green said.
"If it’s something that causes pain or any kind of negative emotions for people, I don’t want that. That’s not something that I want to be a part of and the university that I graduated from to be a part of," Greene continued.
Two concurrent petitions with opposing views are now garnering thousands of signatures online from Longhorns on both sides.
View the petition: #StandWithSam & The Eyes of Texas
UT System Board of Regents Chairman Kevin Eltife issued a statement on Thursday.
"At its July 2020 meeting, The University of Texas System Board of Regents unanimously supported The University of Texas at 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 about 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."