While the University of Texas decided it will keep “The Eyes of Texas” as the school’s alma mater, officials said they plan to rename the football field after Ricky Williams and Earl Campbell.
The announcement was made in an open letter to Longhorn Nation by University of Texas interim president Jay Hartzell and co-signed by other high-ranking officials at the school.
“During the past month, I have listened to—and spoken with—scores of students about how The University of Texas at Austin can promote diversity, inclusion and equity and fully support our Black students,” Hartzell wrote.
Black students make up just 5.1 percent of the school’s student body, and the letter announced a number of initiatives to promote more diversity and inclusion.
In addition to renaming Joe Jamail Field at DKR-Texas Memorial Stadium—which was suggested by the Jamail family—Texas will build a statue of Julius Whittier at the stadium.
Whittier was the first Black football letterman for the Longhorns.
The decision is notable because University of Texas student-athletes, including members of the football team, requested a number of changes in June that included renaming part of the stadium after Whittier.
Texas wide receiver Jordan Whittington shared the requests that also called for the school to remove “The Eyes of Texas” as the alma mater:
Jordan Whittington @J_Whitt3
“What starts here changes the world” #WeAreOne https://t.co/z2CpVBhkwe
Dave Wilson of ESPN noted that “‘The Eyes of Texas,’ which is played before and after every Longhorns football game, has come under scrutiny in recent years because it was first performed in a minstrel show, which featured blackface performances, in 1903.”
However, Hartzell’s letter said the song will remain as the alma mater in the current form.
He called for the student body, alumni and those associated with the school to “own, acknowledge and teach about all aspects of the origins of ‘The Eyes of Texas’ as we continue to sing it moving forward with a redefined vision that unites our community.”
As for the two star running backs who the football field will be renamed after, Williams played at Texas from 1995 through 1998, and Campbell was there from 1974 through 1977. They each won the Heisman Trophy, with Campbell taking it home in 1977 and Williams prevailing in 1998.
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