The University of Texas is working to make the campus “more diverse and welcoming,” and one of its first moves will be to honor a pair of legendary Longhorns running backs.
Administrators intend to rename the field at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium after Earl Campbell and Ricky Williams, the only Heisman Trophy winners in the football program’s storied history. The move was announced Monday in a letter from interim campus president Jay Hartzell.
The university Board of Regents is scheduled to vote on the proposal on Tuesday, and approval is expected.
The idea to rename the stadium came from the family of longtime benefactor Joe Jamail, a billionaire attorney who donated millions of dollars to the school before his death in 2015. The field was named for him in 1997.
“For countless days as young football players and upon being inducted to the [college football] Hall of Fame, Ricky and I have stood on this iconic field for many important points of our lives,” Campbell said in joint statement with Williams. “We never would have envisioned this historic site would one day bear our names. The symbolism of this honor transcends the recognition of the Heisman Trophies we received. It extends to all students, but specifically Black athletes, who continue to work to define our collective motto ‘Winning with Integrity.’ Ricky and I are humbled by this honor.
“We must acknowledge the Joe Jamail family for personally requesting and making this name change to the President of the University of Texas in the spirit of their father. Joe was always known for being a passionate, aggressive advocate of truth. We know he would have been proud to see this day arrive, both as a lawyer and a Longhorn.”
Campbell, now 65, is a Texas native who won the Heisman in 1977. Williams, 43, received the trophy in 1998.
The university also announced it will erect a statue of Julius Whittier, the first Black letterman in football in school history.
Last month, dozens of Texas student-athletes published a lengthy memo requesting that the school make changes to promote racial equality.
The students asked the university to drop “The Eyes of Texas” as the school song, rename buildings that currently are named in honor of people associated with the Confederacy or racism, and set up a permanent exhibit dedicated to Black athletes as part of the athletic Hall of Honor, among other requests -- many of which Hartzell announced the campus would do, plus more.
Their requests followed the death of George Floyd in May and amid a renewed call for social justice.
Hartzell, however, said “The Eyes of Texas” will remain the school song but with a light shed on it.
“‘The Eyes of Texas,’ in its current form, will continue to be our alma mater,” Hartzell wrote. “Aspects of its origin, whether previously widely known or unknown, have created a rift in how the song is understood and celebrated, and that must be fixed. It is my belief that we can effectively reclaim and redefine what this song stands for by first owning and acknowledging its history in a way that is open and transparent.
“Together, we have the power to define what the Eyes of Texas expect of us, what they demand of us, and what standard they hold us to now.”
A number of football players shared their approval of the university’s plans.
On July 2, linebacker DeMarvion Overshown tweeted that he would sit out of team activities “Until We Are One.” The changes outlined by Hartzell satisfied him apparently as he tweeted “We Are One!” on Monday.
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