Texas athletes, coaches react to University changes combating racial injustice

Stephen Wagner and Myah Taylor

The University will rename Joe Jamail Field in honor of Longhorn Heisman winners Earl Cambell and Ricky Williams, among other campus and athletics actions, according to a Monday statement from Interim President Jay Hartzell.

The news comes nearly four weeks after dozens of UT student-athletes tweeted a collective statement calling for the University to rename buildings honoring Confederate or racist figures and drop “The Eyes of Texas” as the school’s alma mater, along with other initiatives to combat racial injustice.

“The Eyes of Texas” will remain  the University’s alma mater, the statement said, but the Robert L. Moore Building will be renamed as the Physics, Math and Astronomy Building. A statue for Julius Whittier, Texas’ first Black football letterman, will be erected at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium.

The family of Joe Jamail, a prominent attorney and UT alumnus, personally requested the name change of the field to University leadership. Cambell said the field’s name change honoring himself and Williams is something they “never would have envisioned.”

“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.’ Ricky and I are humbled by this honor,” Campbell said in a statement. 

Texas student-athletes and coaches took to Twitter to commend the University’s actions. Junior football safety Caden Sterns tweeted, “Great day to be a Longhorn, want to thank the students, athletes, administration, alumni and those behind the scenes working who made this happen.” 

Junior linebacker DeMarvion Overshown, who stated on July 2 that he would sit out of team activities “until real action is taken,” quoted Hartzell’s statement saying “We Are One.”  

Regarding the University’s decision to preserve “The Eyes of Texas” as the school’s alma mater, Sterns later tweeted, “I’m not disappointed, I’m understanding on people’s perspectives on what the song means to them and I get it both sides.” 

Head football coach Tom Herman made headlines in June for his staunch support of his Black student-athletes and the current movement for racial justice before joining his players in a march to the Texas Capitol in solidarity with the Austin Police Department. Herman applauded UT’s student-athletes and the University’s actions in a tweet Monday afternoon.

“So very proud of our players, all Texas student-athletes, our entire student population and university leadership,” Herman said in the tweet. “They will forever be known for being responsible for tangible, positive change on our great campus. Today is a great first step.”