Several emails that went public revealed University of Texas (UT) alumni are threatening to stop donating to the school unless it reaffirms its commitment to its controversial fight song The Eyes of Texas.
The song is not the official fight song for the school. That song is called Texas Fight. However, the Eyes of Texas is traditionally sung by athletes and fans before and after football and basketball games. That tune, however, includes racist overtones and has connections to Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee and blackface.
According to Texas Monthly, while Lee was the president of the Washington College in Virginia (now known as Washington and Lee University) Lee constantly reminded students “the eyes of the South are upon you.”
William Prather, who was a student at Washington College, later became president of UT in 1899. During his first speech, he changed the saying to “the eyes of Texas are upon you.” Several years later a few students wrote a song and the school began performing it at minstrel shows where performers were dressed in blackface.
The song has come under fire in recent years and last year, the football team stopped singing the song after games. The band also stopped playing the song after a survey revealed numerous members objected to the song. The cancellation of the song was also requested by student-athletes along with other requests for racial equity.
UT has not banned the Eyes of Texas song and football coach Steve Sarkisian, who was hired in February said “We’re going to sing it proudly” when the season starts in the fall.
According to Yahoo Sports, UT-Austin president Jay Hartzell has received more than 300 emails on the subject, the majority of which have been in support of the song.
The issue has created a rift between players and alumni. Caden Stern, a current UT player, tweeted Monday that he and his teammates were being threatened by alumni and they would have to find jobs outside of the state after graduating due to their opposition to the song.
My teammates and I got threatened by some alumni that we would have to find jobs outside of Texas if we didn’t participate. https://t.co/owWwHF50ri
— Caden Sterns (@CSterns_7) March 1, 2021
Like many big universities, college football programs generate a significant amount of money for the school. In 2018, UT’s football program generated $144.5 million. That put Texas 15 among 230 Division 1 schools in total sports revenue. Typically the money large football programs generate, pays for many of the other sports programs including gymnastics, fencing, swimming, and other sports.