HOUSTON (KXAN) — In June, Tom Herman took a backseat as the leader of the Longhorns as his players led a march to the Capitol as a unified voice in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
His silent support continued later in the month when players released a list of demands for the university to address social justice issues.
In a virtual Q and A with the Touchdown Club of Houston on Thursday, he voiced his support for the team leading the way for sweeping changes at UT.
“We’ve won a lot of ball games in my time as a coach,” Herman said. “I’ve won a national championship, we’ve beaten top-five, number one ranked teams, you name it. But to see what our players did and the change that they became the catalyst for, it’s monumental. I don’t have another word for it.”
Among the most controversial requests the team made was for “The Eyes of Texas” to no longer be the school song because of its racist origins — with the Texas Cowboys singing the song in blackface at minstrel shows. The university ultimately chose to keep the song as its alma mater, but with the caveat that it will do a better job of acknowledging and teaching its origins.
“We tell our guys … in every negotiation, you’re not gonna get 100 percent of the things that you want,” Herman said. “That’s the way life is. You gotta be willing to compromise, you gotta be willing to listen. Right now, where we’re at as a football team, if we’re gonna complain about one or two things that didn’t go our way, to me, that’s like beating your rival 45-10, but complaining about the one time you didn’t make it on fourth down.
“People like to complain, even when you win, but we’re not going to. We’re going to celebrate our victories, we’re gonna celebrate everything that our players have accomplished moving forward. We’ll let the chips fall where they may when it comes to the other stuff.”
While the players didn’t get what they wanted with the school song, they still affected plenty of change. The school is removing the name of a noted racist and segregationist from a campus building, building a statue of Julius Whittier, the first Black letter winner in football, built at the stadium, getting a monument built to honor the first Black students on campus and it will allocate a portion of athletics’ revenue to recruit more Black students.
“I tell our guys all the time, this is history,” Herman said. “You guys are on the forefront of history. When you come back 10 years from now … you’re gonna walk around campus and you’re gonna see different names on buildings and new fountains and statues of Julius Whittier and you’re gonna look to your son or your daughter and your wife and say, ‘I was part of that. We did this.’ What an unbelievable feat of accomplishment for a bunch of 18-22-year-olds. I can’t tell you how proud I am of them.”
An unexpected change the players sparked was the renaming of the field at Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium from Joe Jamail Field to Campbell-Williams field to honor the schools two Heisman Trophy winners, Earl Campbell and Ricky Williams. The Jamail family requested the change after seeing the players’ push for changes in the name of social justice.
But despite all the changes the team has already helped spur, Herman wants them to continue to push for more.
“It’s easier to craft a statement and put it on twitter and have everybody in our administration and support group perk their ears up,” Herman said. “It’s a lot harder to do things daily in silence that positively impact your community and the people that you associate with. That’s the biggest challenge moving forward, is to make sure that we understand that this isn’t just an event. This is a way of life. If any of us stop before equality and justice is achieved, then we’ve failed.”