Tom Herman: No mandate forcing Texas players to stay on field for playing of 'The Eyes of Texas'
As far as “The Eyes of Texas” goes, Tom Herman laid all his cards on the table Monday.
The Longhorns coach said there would be no mandate that players stay on the field for the post-game singing of the school song. Administrators hope that players would stay to show appreciation for the fans, but nobody at UT has “mandated our players do anything,” Herman said.
Thus, it’s unclear whether any players will stay for The Eyes after Saturday’s game against Baylor (1-1, 1-1 Big 12). It could be a jarring image at Royal-Memorial Stadium, but one that Texas fans may have to accept.
“I think mandate is a very strong word,” Herman said. “That’s never been a word that’s been used to us as coaches from our administration, nor from us coaches to our players.”
Herman typically talks for about a half-hour on Mondays. This particular Monday was notable for its length (50 minutes) and its message. The coach talked about off-week fixes, dabbled in philosophy, filibustered a little and expounded on his close relationship with Baylor coach Dave Aranda.
But a good portion was spent on The Eyes, a century-old song that is forcing UT faithful to choose sides.
“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,” Herman said. “And so just handling that encouragement with the utmost sensitivity, I think is topic No. 1 for us.”
Herman reiterated that athletic director Chris Del Conte has been talking to coaches for weeks about this issue. The athletic director has told players they are not required to sing the lyrics, but he “expects” players to participate in team traditions, which means staying on the field while fans sing.
In Del Conte’s view, staying on the field for The Eyes is a way to salute the fans that support the program. Some players believe the song should be changed because of its origins. The song was performed at minstrel shows by white singers in blackface in the early 1900s.
“We are working through some unprecedented times with very transparent, very honest, open dialogue,” Herman said. The coach, who has taken multiple stands on issues for players’ rights, believes this one has not divided the Texas locker room.
“We had a great team meeting,” Herman said. “The result of that meeting, I think the general pulse of the team, is that we’re in as good a place as we’ve ever been right now as a team. I couldn’t be prouder of our team for staying unified throughout all of this, throughout the last few months.
“And when I say unified, that doesn’t mean everybody agrees,” he continued. “What that means is that there has been a ton of open, honest and mature conversation in regards to a lot of topics. We’re a very divided country — very, very divided country. And our locker room is exactly the opposite.”
NCAA 1-127 Re-Rank:No. 1 Clemson stays ahead of No. 2 Alabama
Football, with players actually blocking and tackling each other, is still the primary objective here. The Longhorns (2-2, 1-2) are probably eager to shift the focus back to the field. But even that was in question last week with the Bears going through a COVID-19 outbreak.
Baylor stopped workouts last week and had to reschedule its game against Oklahoma State. The school announced Sunday it was restarting workouts, and Herman said all indications are the game will happen as scheduled.
In Waco on Monday, Aranda told reporters, “We had our tests (Sunday), and everyone is negative, coaches, players, everybody. We’ve been in the right direction for the last couple of those. I feel like by the middle of the week we’ll have most everybody back. So far, so good, headed in the right direction.”
Are the Longhorns headed in the right direction?
Herman remains optimistic about the Horns’ prospects. Texas has six regular-season games left and has yet to play Oklahoma State, Iowa State or Kansas State.
“We’ve got all of those guys in front of us,” Herman said. “And so we’ve just got to continue on this trajectory. There is no doubt in my mind that everybody in that locker room sees tangible improvement.”
All eyes will be on the head coach. Herman cannot escape them, at night or early in the morn’.
“I think, especially around here, if you start paying attention to the noise, the Internet, the Twitter and the constant bashing after losing a four-overtime ballgame, there are pitfalls to that,” Herman said.
“As much as we preach that over the four years that we’ve been here in eliminating the distractions and eliminating the noise that this place, the University of Texas, is famous for … our guys are as dialed in and as unified as ever,” he said.