The University of Texas introduced Steve Sarkisian as its new head football coach on Tuesday, but not without some controversy.
Sarkisian, who spent the last two years at Alabama as offensive coordinator and was coming fresh off its national championship victory on Monday, was asked about his new program’s school song, “The Eyes of Texas,” a polarizing topic within the Longhorn community due to its roots in racism.
“I know this much, ‘The Eyes of Texas’ is our school song,” Sarkisian said, per Yahoo! Sports. “We support that song. We’re going to sing that song; we’re going to sing it proudly.”
Sarkisian added that he does feel it is important to have “tough discussions” before doubling down that the team is “fired up” to sing the song.
“We can’t put our head in the sand and act like things aren’t happening,” Sarkisian said. “We have to have those discussions and educate our players to make sure we’re all on the same page and understand that. … As it pertains to ‘The Eyes of Texas,’ that’s our song. We’re fired up to sing it.”
Last summer, following the death of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter protests that swept the nation, Texas athletes and members of the marching band called on the school to stop playing the song due to its racist roots – stemming from a 1903 campus minstrel show which featured white students performing in blackface.
The song is played to the tune of “I’ve been working on the railroad,” and the words and title were inspired from University of Texas president William Prather, who would frequently paraphrase Confederate General Robert E. Lee, “Forward, young men and women of the University, the eyes of Texas are upon you.”
The Texas band refused to play the song in their final two home games this season, which led to administrators not allowing the band to play at all and instead played “The Eyes of Texas” over the loudspeakers.
Despite concerns from students and athletes, administrators and even Texas government officials have stood behind the song and Sarkisian appears to fall in line with them.