Texas will rename its football field after Heisman Trophy winners Earl Campbell and Ricky Williams as part of its efforts to be a more "diverse and welcoming campus." However, in a letter penned by interim UT president Jay Hartzell, Texas will keep "The Eyes of Texas" as its alma mater.
The decision comes after what Hartzell described as "challenging, fulfilling and eye-opening" conversations within the UT community in the wake of George Floyd's murder and the subsequent surge in the Black Lives Matter movement. Back in June, several Longhorns athletes shared a single, unsigned statement on social media asking for a number of changes around campus. Those changes included:
- Renaming an area of Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium after Julius Whittier, the first black player at UT
- Replacing "The Eyes of Texas" as the school's alma mater with "a new song without racist undertones" while lifting the requirement for players to sing the song after games
- Building a permanent black athlete history exhibit to the UT athletics Hall of Fame
- Donating 0.5 percent of the athletics department's annual earnings to "black organizations and the BLM movement"
Texas is making several changes across its campus in response, but as it relates to athletes/college football, a statue of Whittier will be erected at DKR-Texas Memorial Stadium. Additionally, Joe Jamail Field will now display the names of Campbell and Williams at the suggestion of the Jamail family.
"For countless days as young football players and upon being inducted to the Hall of Fame, Ricky and I have stood on this iconic field for many important points of our lives," Campbell said in a statement. "We never would have envisioned this historic site would one day bear our names. The symbolism of this honor transcends the recognition of the Heisman Trophies we received. It extends to all students, but specifically black athletes, who continue to work to define our collective motto 'Winning with Integrity.'"
Added Williams: "We recognize the naming of Campbell/Williams Field is a historic moment and we urge our nation's universities and communities to continue to reflect and review the history, symbolism, and identities that we place on monuments, public institutions, and sports organizations."
But of all the requests for change, replacing "The Eyes of Texas" garnered the most attention. The well-known song dates back to the Jim Crow era of the early 1900s and a minstrel show which featured performers in black face. Though UT will keep the song as its alma mater, Hartzell said the following: "'The Eyes of Texas,' in its current form, will continue to be our alma mater. Aspects of its origin, whether previously widely known or unknown, have created a rift in how the song is understood and celebrated, and that must be fixed. It is my belief that we can effectively reclaim and redefine what this song stands for by first owning and acknowledging its history in a way that is open and transparent."
Hartzell continued: "Together, we have the power to define what the Eyes of Texas expect of us, what they demand of us, and what standard they hold us to now. 'The Eyes of Texas' should not only unite us, but hold all of us accountable to our institution's core values. But we first must own the history. Only then can we reimagine its future, and I look forward to partnering with our campus community to do just that."
So very proud of our players, all Texas student-athletes, our entire student population and university leadership. They will forever be known for being responsible for tangible, positive change on our great campus. Today is a great first step. #HookEm 🤘🏼 https://t.co/ftYQpgPk3G— Coach Tom Herman (@CoachTomHerman) July 13, 2020
The June statement from Longhorns players said that while they would continue to practice and prepare for the upcoming season, "without an official commitment from the university" they would "not be participating in the recruiting of incoming players or donor-related events."