Brand spanking new Texas coach Steve Sarkisian is on top of the world—or rather, he should be.
But not even 48 hours removed from playing an integral role in Alabama’s 18th national title as the Crimson Tide’s offensive coordinator—yes, that was him who orchestrated Devonta Smith’s historic reign of terror—the 46-year-old stepped into a steaming hot pile of controversial dog shit.
During his introductory press conference, he was asked about a little ditty called “The Eyes of Texas”—which just so happens to be the school’s song. Typically songs of this nature are lively and completely harmless, but in the case of this particular bop, on a scale of one to racist as fuck, it falls somewhere around Ted Nugent or Hulk Hogan cackling in your face before calling you a porch monkey.
Sarkisian, however, doesn’t care.
“We support that song. We’re going to sing that song, we’re going to sing it proudly,” he said before circling back later. “That’s our song. And we’re fired up to sing it.”
For those out the loop, “The Eyes of Texas” became a hot button topic in the immediate aftermath of the officer-related death of George Floyd. Students at the school took issue with the song’s origins—it was inspired by Confederate general Robert E. Lee and made its debut in 1903 during a campus minstrel show performed by white students in blackface—and soon after, both student-athletes and school bandmembers protested and took action. The Texas marching band refused to play it during the Longhorns’ final two home games.
And how did the school respond? By blaring the song over the loudspeakers instead and issuing statements like this:
“‘The Eyes of Texas’ has been UT Austin’s official school song for almost 120 years. It has been performed at most official events—celebratory or solemn—and sung by proud alumni and students for generations as a common bond of the UT family.
“It is a longstanding symbol of The University’s academic and athletic achievements in its pursuit of excellence.”
That statement came courtesy of chairman Kevin Eltife in October; who, like every other member of the school’s board of regents, was appointed by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott.
Since the controversy first arose, the school has announced efforts to “make itself more welcoming to its Black students” and address the “rift in how the song is understood and celebrated.” But does a single one of them include getting rid of the song? Nope.
This unfairly puts Black student-athletes in the awkward position of generating millions of dollars for a school—and NCAA—that could clearly give less than a fuck about them while also trying not to piss off the school or lose the privilege of showcasing their athletic abilities to pro scouts and executives.
“I’m not disappointed, I’m understanding on people’s perspectives on what the song means to them and I get it both sides,” defensive back Caden Sterns tweeted about the controversy. “I do think it’s important that those who partake are informed and educated of the roots of the song and how it came about. Still love though!”
Does this sound like somebody being honest about how he feels about the situation? Or a Black player cautiously trying to play both sides?
This whole debacle is something to keep in mind the next time this school or any other under the NCAA’s umbrella tells you that Black Lives Matter.