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Idle Texas Band Divided on 'Eyes of Texas' Controversy

Paul Steinbach

A University of Texas spokesman confirmed Wednesday that the Longhorn band will not perform during Saturday’s football game against Baylor, and it’s clear the band will not be back on the field anytime soon over division within its ranks on the song "The Eyes of Texas," according to USA Today and Hookem reporter Brian Davis.

On Wednesday, The Daily Texan reported that band members had responded to an internal survey asking whether they would play the now-controversial school song. Band director Scott Hanna told members the band did not have the “necessary instrumentation, so we will not participate in Saturday’s game.”

The century-old school song has become a flashpoint. Some have made short-lived attempts to get the song changed over the years, but this recent push started in earnest this summer as social justice issues came to the fore.

As USA Today columnist Christine Brennon writes, "The anthem that brings athletes, alums and fans together at the beginning and at the end of games with an arm raised in their familiar, two-fingered 'Hook ‘Em Horns' salute traces its roots to a campus minstrel show, in which white performers sang and danced in blackface. It is set to the tune of 'I’ve Been Working on the Railroad,' which itself has racist origins. It also takes its name right out of the playbook of Confederate General Robert E. Lee, who, as president of what would become Washington and Lee University, told students, 'The eyes of the South are upon you.' ”

The band is “fairly evenly divided in opinion,” Hanna wrote to band members, according to the Daily school newspaper. “Moving toward resolution takes time and sustained effort. The conversations that have started are an important step toward that goal.”

News of an internal survey caught high-level administrators off guard, two people with knowledge of the situation told the Austin American-Statesman on Wednesday. The people requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the issue, according to Hookem's Davis. Those in the administration thought the issue had already been decided. 

“We are continuing to work with students in the Longhorn Band to maintain the musical traditions of the University of Texas, including ‘The Eyes of Texas,’ ” a university spokesman told the American Statesman.

Athletic director Chris Del Conte is facing donor upheaval because football players have not stayed on the field for the postgame singing of “The Eyes” at home games. Football coach Tom Herman said Monday he had encouraged players to stay even though it was not mandatory.

 

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