University of Texas Committee Says 'The Eyes of Texas' Song Has No Racist Intent

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistMarch 9, 2021

The Texas Longhorns mascot Hook 'Em performs on the field before the first half of the NCAA Big 12 Conference football championship against the Oklahoma Sooners, Saturday, Dec. 1, 2018, in Arlington, Texas. Oklahoma defeated Texas 39-27. (AP Photo/Roger Steinman)
Roger Steinman/Associated Press

A University of Texas committee concluded Tuesday that there is "no racist intent" behind the song "The Eyes of Texas."

According to ESPN's David Wilson, the committee released a 58-page report of it findings, which included that the first public performance of the song in 1903 likely featured performances in blackface at a minstrel show.

Despite that, the committee wrote the following in the report's executive summary:

"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 Eyes of Texas' should not only unite us, but hold all of us accountable to our institution's core values."

"The Eyes of Texas" is traditionally played before and after Longhorns football games. While the song will still be permitted to be played, it was recommended in the report that students not be required to sing it.

Per Wilson, some University of Texas athletes released a group statement in June regarding their desire to make the campus more inclusive. Included in the statement was a request to replace "The Eyes of Texas" with a different song.

Some players refused to remain on the field during the playing of the song early in the 2020 season, but that changed after athletic director Chris Del Conte told them "he expected them to stand together to honor the fans" in October.

During an interview with Longhorn Network (h/t Wilson), Texas president Jay Hartzell gave the following take on "The Eyes of Texas" and its origins Tuesday:

"For me, the song itself doesn't [have racist undertones]. 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."

The investigation into "The Eyes of Texas" concluded that while blackface performances of the song were "a painful reality," it doesn't appear as though it was composed as a minstrel tune.

It also determined that there is no proof of the line "the eyes of Texas are upon you" being something Confederate General Robert E. Lee coined.

The committee recommended that incoming students be taught about the history of the song and that Black musicians be permitted to create alternate versions of the song.

Longhorns football has been in the midst of a downturn for more than a decade, as head coaches Charlie Strong and Tom Herman were unable to reach the level of success Mack Brown did between 1998 and 2013.

Texas fired Herman after going 7-3 in 2020 and has since hired former Alabama offensive coordinator and Washington and USC head coach Steve Sarkisian as his replacement.

In 2021, Texas will look to win its first Big 12 title since 2009.