AUSTIN (KXAN) — Steve Sarkisian’s stance on the complex issue of “The Eyes of Texas” is clear.
The new Longhorns head football coach, who has been on the job in Austin for less than a day, was inevitably going to be asked about the song that has become a prominent topic when discussing racial inclusivity around the University of Texas.
“I know this much, The Eyes of Texas is our school song. We support that song. We’re going to sing that song, we’re going to sing it proudly,” Sarkisian said.
The school song has been examined since the summer. Its origins are connected to the Confederacy and minstrel shows from the 1900s. Longhorns student-athletes called on university leaders in June to get rid of the school spirit song and write a new song — which athletes would not be required to sing.
In July, UT leaders announced the university would keep “The Eyes of Texas” as a school song, but would make other changes around campus to “promote diversity, inclusion and equity and to more fully support Black students on campus.”
Before the season started, several players, including team captain Caden Sterns, said they wouldn’t sing the song.
The debate over “The Eyes” hit its peak after Texas’ loss to Oklahoma in the Red River Showdown. As the song played after the game, only quarterback Sam Ehlinger and a few others remained on the field, adding more fire to the controversy. Later, Ehlinger told the media he acknowledges the song as a connection to his father, who was a Texas alumni who died in 2013.
In his next press conference, former head coach Tom Herman said players were encouraged to participate if they felt comfortable.
After Texas’ next game, a win against Baylor, all Longhorns players and coaches remained on the field for the song, quelling the conversation to an extent.
In October, UT President Jay Hartzell announced a new committee will chronicle the history behind school spirit song. The committee of university alumni, staff and students are expected to share the history and contextualize the song.
Sarkisian appears prepared to continue the conversation with his new players.
“Any talks that we need to have, whether it’s about The Eyes of Texas or any other issues that come up, I think it’s having the discussions. We can’t put our head in the sand and act like things aren’t happening. We have to really have those discussions with them,” Sarkisian said. “As it pertains to The Eyes of Texas, that’s our song, and we’re fired up to sing it.”