University of Texas Creating Separate Band That Won't Perform 'The Eyes of Texas' After Backlash

The University of Texas announced it is creating a separate band for fall 2022 that will not perform its alma mater, "The Eyes of Texas," in response to concerns raised about the song.

The university said the Longhorn marching and pep bands will still play the song, while a newly established "to be named" university band will not be required to, after Texas students and athletes raised concerns last year over its lyrics after the police killing of George Floyd in May 2020, according to a news release from the school.

"We need to celebrate and nurture what makes UT special, and the Longhorn Band is one of those great organizations that shape our campus culture, elevate school spirit and provide amazing opportunities for our students," said University of Texas at Austin President Jay Hartzell in the school's announcement.

Originally, Hartzell said that no one would be required to sing the song in a statement on a March 9 report on "The Eyes of Texas" by the university that concluded there was "no racist intent," according to the Associated Press.

The "to be named" university band will be an academic for-credit course, the announcement stated. All students participating in the university's bands, including the newly established one, will receive a performance scholarship of $1,000.

The "Eyes of Texas" was written in 1903 for the purpose of it being the University of Texas' campus song, according to the university's news release.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

The Texas Longhorns Logo
The University of Texas Longhorns logo on the field at Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium before a game against the University of Maryland Terrapins on September 2, 2017, in Austin, Texas. G Fiume/Getty Images

The university's recent announcement was sharply criticized by the state chapter of the NAACP.

The roots of "Eyes of Texas" are in early 1900s minstrel shows with musicians often in blackface.

The song has long been a popular fixture at campus events, most notably at football games and other sports events.

The school did not say where or when the newly established band will perform. It will be designed "with a focus on leading/directing bands and community engagement," the school said.

Gary Bledsoe, president of the Texas chapter of the NAACP and a Texas law school graduate, sharply criticized the decisions to keep playing the song and create a separate band. He said that will set up the traditional Longhorn Band as a "privileged group."

"People who exercise their constitutional right to not participate in a racist song, and are therefore denied an opportunity to play in a special band, that's just going to be an issue that's going to have a disparate impact on African-American band members," he said. "It's like telling folks you have to engage in a racist activity and if you don't, you can't be in the band."

The song is sung to the tune of "I've Been Working on the Railroad," and is an old standard in Longhorn country. For decades, it has been sung after games and graduation ceremonies, and is a popular sing-along at weddings and even funerals

It has also been a sore subject for decades for some minority students. The title was taken from a favored saying of a former school president who had reportedly mimicked remarks by Confederate General Robert E. Lee.

In March, the NAACP joined a group of Black state lawmakers and students in criticizing the school report and said they would keep pressing the university to drop it.