Update: The UT Board of Regents has come out in unanimous support of President Hartzell and "The Eyes of Texas." See thread below.
Last week we wrote about a football story that really wasn't a football story that actually was a football story. If that confusing double negative sentence doesn't make sense, hopefully this will fill in the gaps.
On Wednesday, the the Daily Texanreported the UT band will not play at the Longhorns' upcoming home game with Baylor on Saturday because half of the members voted against playing "The Eyes of Texas."
“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.
This is the latest chapter in a story that has embroiled the university since June, when a group of UT athletes published a list of demands to continue participating fully with the university, the most controversial of which was no longer singing the school's alma mater after sporting events.
That issue came to a head on Oct. 10, when Sam Ehlinger was photographed singing the song alone after Texas's four-overtime loss to Oklahoma. (The band did not travel to that game.)
In response, Texas president Jay Hartzell released a statement saying the Show Band of the Southwest was never expected to play at Saturday's game and when they do return to action, they are expected to play the song. In the band's absence, "The Eyes" will be played over the PA system. That arrangement is expected to continue until the band agrees to play the song.
“The Eyes of Texas will be played this weekend as it has been throughout this season – and it will continue to be played at future games and events. While we would love the band to be with our fans at all our games, we never planned for them to perform live this Saturday. We knew this summer that, as we make our campus a more welcoming place, we would face many hard conversations. I remain truly optimistic that we will find ways to join together around our song, which has been so positive for so many Longhorns over the past 120 years.”
So, yes, this is a story that extends beyond the football program... but the football program is the epicenter of the earthquake. At Texas, like many universities, football games are where the entire university family gathers, and when the football team doesn't sing the song, other groups would follow.
As such, Tom Herman's detractors believe if the football team sang, everyone else would, too.
Stuck in the middle while focused primarily on pulling his team out of a 2-game losing streak, Herman has tried to thread an impossible needle of encouraging players to sing while not forcing anyone to do anything they don't want to do.
“This is so individual,” Herman said Monday. "If you line 10 guys up in a locker room, you might get nine or 10 different opinions on what we should do, what the song means, what the fans mean, what the university means.
“Handling that encouragement with the utmost sensitivity, I think is, is topic No. 1 for me.”
For their part, Texas coaches and players say the issue has not divided the locker room. Differences of opinion are honored and respected.
Meanwhile, the university's alums and fan groups are in turmoil unlike any in UT's history.
No one can say how or when the issue will be resolved -- but beating Baylor on Saturday sure would be a good start.