Texas DB Caden Sterns: Some Alumni 'Threatened' Players over 'The Eyes of Texas'

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistMarch 1, 2021

]Texas defensive back Caden Sterns (7) during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Iowa State, Friday, Nov. 27, 2020, in Austin, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Eric Gay/Associated Press

Former Texas safety Caden Sterns recounted the hostility he and some of his teammates received after they signaled their desire to not participate in the postgame performance of "The Eyes of Texas." 

Sterns said some of the school's alumni indicated he and his teammates "would have to find jobs outside of Texas if we didn't participate":

The Texas Tribune's Kate McGee obtained emails from alumni and donors who told the University of Texas they would cease giving money to the school if "The Eyes" tradition wasn't maintained.

"It's time for you to put the foot down and make it perfectly clear that the heritage of Texas will not be lost," wrote one donor who wasn't named. "It is sad that it is offending the blacks. As I said before the blacks are free and it's time for them to move on to another state where everything is in their favor."

Larry Wilkinson, a graduate of Texas in 1970, cited a statistic saying six percent of the student population at the university's Austin campus is Black.

"The tail cannot be allowed to wag the dog….. and the dog must instead stand up for what is right," Wilkinson said. "Nothing forces those students to attend UT Austin. Encourage them to select an alternate school ….NOW!"

Last June, a group of Longhorns athletes issued a series of requests, one of which focused on replacing "The Eyes of Texas" as the school song.

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Texas Monthly's Joe Levin provided the song's origin story, explaining how its title came from a phrase former university President William Prather would use. Prather heard Robert E. Lee tell students at Washington College in Virginia how "the eyes of the South are upon you" and modified the phrase for the University of Texas.

Two students wrote a song based on Prather's oft-used phrased, and what became "The Eyes of Texas" debuted at a minstrel show in May 1903.

Because of those origins, members of the Texas football team chose not to remain on the field for "The Eyes of Texas" early in the season but encountered resistance from athletic director Chris Del Conte.

Head coach Tom Herman threw his support behind the players, which The Athletic's Max Olson reported "was undeniably a turning point" that eventually led to Herman's firing.

Steve Sarkisian officially succeeded Herman in January and made it clear he would differ from Herman in his handling of the song.

"I know this much, 'The Eyes of Texas' is our school song," Sarkisian told reporters Jan. 12. "We're going to sing that song, we're going to sing that proudly. ... That's our song and we're fired up to sing it."