UT to keep ‘The Eyes of Texas,’ but make other changes supporting Black athletes | #students | #parents

Major changes sought by Texas football players and student groups in the name of racial equality are coming to the Austin campus.

While The Eyes of Texas will still be sung as the school song at Royal-Memorial Stadium, the field will be renamed for Black Heisman Trophy winners Earl Campbell and Ricky Williams. And Julius Whittier, the first Black football letterman at the school, will be getting a long-overdue statue at the stadium.

Several Texas athletes took to social media to endorse the changes, including linebacker DeMarvion Overshown, who had announced earlier this month that he would sit out all team activities if something hadn’t been done.

“So very proud of our players, all Texas student-athletes, our entire student population and university leadership,” football coach Tom Herman tweeted. “They will forever be known for being responsible for tangible, positive change on our great campus. Today is a great first step.”

Interim UT President Jay Hartzell, who met with football players and campus groups as part of a listening tour the last several weeks, addressed controversy surrounding The Eyes of Texas and its history.

The Eyes of Texas, in its current form, will continue to be our alma mater,” Hartzell wrote in a letter announcing the changes. “Aspects of its origin, whether previously widely known or unknown, have created a rift in how the song is understood and celebrated, and that must be fixed. It is my belief that we can effectively reclaim and redefine what this song stands for by first owning and acknowledging its history in a way that is open and transparent.

“Together, we have the power to define what The Eyes of Texas expect of us, what they demand of us, and what standard they hold us to now. The Eyes of Texas should not only unite us, but hold all of us accountable to our institution’s core values. But we first must own the history.”

The song was performed at minstrel shows by performers in blackface during the early 1900s. Former Texas defensive lineman Sam Acho had tweeted that “most Black players hated singing that song.”

But the song is rooted in school tradition and carries a special attachment for many fans and alumni. Its removal was always going to be a difficult sell.

“I’m not disappointed, I’m understanding on people’s perspectives on what the song means to them, and I get it both sides,” tweeted junior defensive back Caden Sterns, among those who had publicly called for change. “I do think it’s important that those who partake are informed and educated of the roots of the song and how it came about. Still love though!”

Sterns and other players had marched from DKR to the Capital in Austin last month, and knelt in memory of George Floyd, who died in Minneapolis police custody. Later, athletes in a half-dozen sports had posted a list of requested changes from the university, including “The Eyes of Texas.”

The field at DKR had been named in honor of the late Joe Jamail, a Houston attorney and major Texas donor. The change is being made following a request by his family.

“We never would have envisioned this historic site would one day bear our names,” Campbell said in a statement. “The symbolism of this honor transcends the recognition of the Heisman Trophies we received.”

Said Williams: “A new consciousness is rising, and we are honored to be a part of it.”

A statue will honor Whittier, a lineman and tight end who played at Texas from 1970-72 and was a member of three Southwest Conference champions. His success paved the way for other Black players, including running back Roosevelt Leaks and Campbell.

The school will make a multi-million-dollar investment from athletic revenue “to recruit, attract, retain and support Black students.”

Texas also announced the renaming of the math, physics and astronomy building that bore the name of former professor Robert Lee More Hall, who had expressed segregationist views. Texas will also honor Heman M. Sweatt, the school’s first Black student.

“To all who have been so candid with me about your frustrations, your concerns, your experiences and your beliefs — thank you,” Hartzell wrote in his open letter. “It has been a humbling experience to hear and learn from you.”

FILE - In this March 3, 2019 file photo, North Carolina coach Mack Brown smiles during the NCAA college football team's first practice of the season in Chapel Hill, N.C. Brown is back for a second stint at North Carolina after more than two decades away. He led the Tar Heels to consecutive top-10 finishes in 1996 and '97 before moving to Texas, then spending the past few years in broadcasting.

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