As the sun peeked through the clouds during Texas’ game against Baylor Saturday afternoon, it illuminated the Longhorns’ icy white uniforms.
It was the first time the Texas football team has worn the white jerseys and pants with burnt orange numbers and trim at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium in 70 years. Texas Athletics announced Tuesday the team would adopt the retro look for the Longhorns’ 110th meeting against the Bears.
A lot has changed since the Longhorns last donned the icy whites in a victory over Purdue in 1950. That year, Texas finished its season 9–2 and won the Southwest Conference Championship en route to a No. 3 finish in the AP poll.
Texas would continue establishing its national prominence into the next decade under legendary head coach Darrell K Royal who led the Longhorns to national championships in 1963 and 1969.
Flash forward to today, and Texas is working to live up to that blue blood status it’s been trying to reattain for over a decade now. Construction on the Longhorn-shaped south end zone says it all: The orange cow empire is ever-growing. The team now has to catch up.
While the Longhorns beat Baylor 27-16 in their most balanced game since the season-opener against UT-El Paso Sept. 12, they still have two losses on the season — far too many according to the Texas standard.
Tom Herman, Texas’ eighth head coach since Blair Cherry in 1950, was proud of the win nonetheless, even if it was against a Bears team that has missed several games and practices due to COVID-19 outbreaks among its players or coaching staff.
“Really, really pleased to deliver a win for our fans in the stadium and obviously our millions of fans at home,” Herman said. “With a few exceptions, I thought we played so much cleaner.”
That’s another difference between 2020 and 1950: the pandemic. It, along with the win over Baylor that prevented Texas from falling below .500 Saturday, could be maintaining Herman’s job security.
Herman has also navigated the ongoing conversation surrounding UT’s alma mater, “The Eyes of Texas.”
Although several student-athletes requested for the University to remove the tune as the school song over the summer due to its racist history, dozens of Texas players stayed on the field as it played after the victory. Some even put their horns up.
The moment came two weeks after numerous players left before the song played, following Texas’ loss to Oklahoma at the Cotton Bowl. Senior quarterback Sam Ehlinger, a few other players and the coaching staff stayed on the field.
“We talked about it as a team, and I'm glad everyone participated in the song,” senior defensive end Ta’Quon Graham said. “I'm glad that we all did that together.”
In 1950, it would be another 20 years before Black players joined the team. The 1969 Longhorns were the last college football team with only white players to win a national championship, and social media, which has served as a platform for players to discuss “The Eyes of Texas,” wouldn’t arrive for several decades. It’s unlikely that the 1950 team had the same deep discussions about race that today’s players and society at large are having.
But these are the storms the team must weather these days, in addition to winning football games. It’s not looking like the 3–2 Longhorns will win a national championship like some of the historic Texas teams since 1950, but they still haven’t given up on winning the conference.
They’ll continue their Big 12 title quest next weekend in Stillwater, Oklahoma, against undefeated Oklahoma State.
“They have a really, really good team this year,” Ehlinger said. “I think it was important to get our confidence back with a win this week and get back to work tomorrow.”