Update as of 10/21 at 8:05 p.m.:
In a message Wednesday evening, University President Jay Hartzell said the Longhorn Band was never expected to play at the game this weekend. He said “The Eyes of Texas” has been played at previous games in the season and will continue to be played in the future.
At previous football games this season, “The Eyes” was played over loudspeakers. The band has not played live at a game so far.
“We knew this summer that, as we make our campus a more welcoming place, we would face many hard conversations,” Hartzell said.
The Longhorn Band will not participate in the Texas vs. Baylor football game Saturday after an internal survey asking whether members would play “The Eyes of Texas” revealed a lack of “necessary instrumentation,” according to a message to band members obtained by The Daily Texan.
“Based on (survey responses), we do not have the necessary instrumentation, so we will not participate in Saturday’s game,” Longhorn Band director Scott Hanna said in the message.
Multiple band members said the survey asked if they would be willing to play “The Eyes.” The message said this week’s survey results would not impact whether the band plays and performs at future games.
Douglas Dempster, the dean of the College of Fine Arts, previously said the band was “expected” to play the song, which many band members said they would not play due to its racist history. Hanna and Dempster did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
During Black Lives Matter protests this summer, student-athletes and other students called on UT to drop “The Eyes of Texas” as the alma mater. The song was originally performed at a minstrel show with performers in blackface, and the opening verse is a saying inspired by Confederate general Robert E. Lee, according to previous reporting by The Daily Texan.
The band is “fairly evenly divided in opinion,” according to the message. However, a ranging proportion of responses within certain instrument sections would prevent necessary instrumentation for the week.
“Moving toward resolution takes time and sustained effort,” Hanna said in the message. “The conversations that have started are an important step toward that goal.”
This announcement comes after Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger gained press attention for being one of the few team members standing and singing “The Eyes” after the Texas vs. Oklahoma game Oct. 10. A petition with more than 2,000 signatures at the time of publication was started Tuesday to support Ehlinger and encourage players to stand for “The Eyes.”
The message said many band members have indicated that they want more opportunities to talk and have discussions, and the band directors will facilitate it.
“All of us on staff will do everything we can to create and maintain space for conversations,” Hanna said in the message.